Use SWOT Analysis to Prepare for Holiday


Have you checked the calendar? It isn’t even Halloween and a blog about Holiday readiness is hitting your inbox! This year, I am calling it ‘Purposeful Planning’ and introducing the use of a SWOT analysis to assess your store’s holiday readiness. Once you master this planning approach, it will help you run a great store all the time, not just at holiday.

I have spent the last 30 years either preparing my own store to win at holiday, focusing on my district preparedness or for the past 11 years or helping the entire stores organization prepare for a successful holiday.

This is my first year coaching from the sidelines rather than being in the game. And it is as exciting as ever!

If you are a die hard retailer, you started thinking about holiday right after the last big holiday ended.

If you want to have a “knock it out of the park” kind of holiday, executing flawlessly is a requirement. It requires what I call “purposeful planning” and competing a SWOT analysis is a great start.

What is Purposeful Planning?

By purposefully planning every detail, a differentiated experience will be created for your customers.

This remarkable customer experience is the linchpin of a successful brick and mortar store. When customers have a great experience, they tell other people. When they don’t, they tell even more people. And suddenly the world knows what you are doing – good or bad.

Where did SWOT originate?

The use of SWOT stems back to the 1960’s when the Stanford Research Institute came up with the approach to help large companies with their long range planning. Retail organizations have been using it for years across the executive levels.

I can personally attest that using SWOT works to run an effective Region, District, Store or Company. And it is a bit underused in the field.

What is SWOT?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is a framework that helps managers think about every detail that impacts holiday success. Failure to consider strengths, weaknesses, threats or opportunities, could lead to poor execution or even making decisions without all the necessary information.

In case you haven’t completed a SWOT analysis for holiday before, let me share the best way to start. Leverage your team to be your thought partners. Success comes from a 360 degree view of how your store operates, not just your point of view.

Include every detail, prioritize what needs to be addressed first, second, third and how, when and who will complete the actions.

Use the SWOT analysis throughout the store

Below are some thought starters to get you going, but don’t stop here. Assess your store and come up with a relevant list. Click here for the SWOT Analysis template.


This includes associate availability, strength of team, required training, associate engagement, staffing needed, etc.

Customer Experience

This includes consistency in the experience delivered every day (look at Conversion metrics as a gauge), Team use of selling model, capability of creating remarkable experiences with every customer, fitting room experience, customer survey results (if applicable), etc.

Financial Metrics

How are the key metrics trending? Look at Conversion, ADS, UPT. What are the behaviors that are driving the results?

Physical Plant

Physical Aspects of store from cleanliness to repairs that might need done, etc.


How is the hardware operating – consider Registers performance, PinPads, Keyboards, etc.


Is the backroom ready for the increased flow of goods? Is it properly organized, are Bulletin Boards up to date, what supplies are needed, how clean is the space?

Visual Merchandising

Is the store set to standard and visually maintained? Does training need to be done to ensure the store looks good throughout the peaks? Is there a good process for replenishing the store, keeping it sized, etc. displays.

How do I begin the SWOT Analysis?

The easiest way to complete the SWOT analysis for your store is to walk through the store starting outside at the windows and store exterior, then moving throughout the store, including the cash wrap and finally, the backroom noting the good, the bad and the ugly.
As you create the list, place each of the topics into the corresponding Strengths and Weaknesses categories.

Once strengths and weaknesses are completed, it is time to think about external components – Opportunities and Threats. These are normally things that are outside of your control but should still be considered. Why? Because in considering these external factors, you may think differently about actions you should take.

Here is an example. Target has announced they are hiring 130,000 seasonal associates for holiday. I would put this in the “Threat” bucket. If you were planning to wait until November 1 to start hiring, you will get the leftovers of all the other retailers that are strategizing now, like Target.

So if this is a threat to your ability to staff up for holiday, an action you might take coming out of the SWOT is focused on your Staffing Strategy and the necessary timing.

Time to Prioritize SWOT results

Now that you have bucketed your store’s strengths, weaknesses and considered opportunities and external threats, it is time to prioritize the list. Once the list is prioritized, including potential actions for each category, share your learnings with your District Manager and get their input.

Once you and your DM have aligned, it is time to finalize the action plan. It is critical to be specific:
– WHAT/HOW are the actions (be specific)
– WHEN will they be completed by
– WHO will be assigned to the task

Don’t overcomplicate it!

Action planning can be scary to managers. Here is an example.

Staffing Example:

  1. Talk to your current team to understand their availability for Black Friday through New Years Day by October 1 (all managers participate)
  2. Contact past employees (good performers) to see if they are interested in coming back and when by October 10. (all managers)
  3. Evaluate last year’s Black Friday schedule and compare to current availability and team who is coming back to work nd create a list of what shifts need to be filled by October 15. (Store Manager)
  4. Hire remaining staff by November 1 and complete on boarding by November 15 (Store Manager)
    This is an example only.

This example includes the What, When and Who and How. Now the follow up to ensure completion will be easy.

Remember to include your team throughout the action planning step since your managers will be a key component to completing the plan.

“People support a world they help create.”

Action Time

This whole blog is one big action item! I want to encourage you to complete a SWOT on your store by October 15! To make it easy, I have added a printable template on the Resource page. Remember, prioritization is a must. Actions that drive sales and create memorable customer experiences should hit the top of the list.

Partner with your District Manager to ensure you are focused on the your brand strategies too! If you get stuck, reach out to me, and I will respond within 24 hours.

I am rooting for you,


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