A Top 10 2024 1st Quarter (Q1) Checklist

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Congratulations! You made it through the retail holiday season. Take a deep breath…now on to the new year. Here’s a Top 10 1st Quarter (Q1) checklist of great ways to kick off the year:

1.    The holiday season isn’t really over until you debrief.

  • Debrief the holiday season with your staff to make improvements and inform your planning for next year’s holiday season. (What did you all wish you had known going in? What would you all like to improve for next year? What customer feedback did you hear?)
  • Review your social media analytics to inform your social media plans for the new year.
  • Follow up with new customers to thank them for visiting your store, website, pop-up, and/or mobile store during the holidays. Repeat contact makes for repeat customers!
  • Conduct a customer survey to get valuable feedback from new customers and your best customers.

2.    Your lowest priority (when things get busy) can be your highest risk.

Now is a good time to prioritize cyber security:

  • Change the passwords on all store computers, websites, and social media platforms.
  • Update all store computer software and apps.
  • Conduct virus scans on all store computers.
  • Back up all store data and records for year-end, either on the cloud or on a server.
  • Review fraud red flags with staff and train them to check ABA’s Fraud Report to see recent suspicious activity reported by other stores prior to processing orders.
  • Train staff on cyber security including phishing scams. These are very common and several bookstores were victims of these scams in 2023 with serious consequences. 

3.    Spring cleaning doesn’t need to wait for spring.

Now is a good time to prioritize building maintenance. Here’s a useful Retail Spring Cleaning Checklist.

4.    Make your (data) New Year’s resolutions.

  • Commit to reporting to ABACUS, ABA’s financial survey of independent bookstores. This data creates industry benchmarks, helps stores analyze their financials and find opportunities to improve profitability, and informs ABA’s prioritization of education and programming. Watch BTW for announcements about how to start preparing for the opening of the 2023 survey in April.
  • Commit to showing publishers the value of the indie channel. Report your store sales. Use Edelweiss' Basecamp — sign up now for a free one-year subscription. Nominate your favorite upcoming books for the Indie Next List and Kids’ Next List.
  • Fill out ABA’s Annual Sales Survey. The survey was emailed to members on 1/2 from [email protected].
  • Fill out ABA’s 3rd Annual Membership Satisfaction Survey. The survey will be distributed via BTW on 1/31. 

5.    Spread the love that is Winter Institute.

  • If you or someone on your staff are attending Winter Institute, plan a “mini-winni” (Thanks, Bank Square Books and Savoy Bookshop, for this great idea!) for late February. Have staff who attended Wi share their key takeaways with the whole team. 

6.    Staff is alway the priority.

  • Celebrate the success of the season with a post-holiday get together. Pizza and a thank you goes a long way.  And don’t forget to invite your holiday hires.
  • Check in with staff to see how they’re feeling post-holidays. January can often feel anticlimactic after the holiday rush leaving staff feeling burned out or blue. One-on-one meetings with everyone on your team can help with morale and staff retention.
  • Schedule vacations for everyone on your team during this slower time. Even a few days off can be beneficial.
  • This is a great time to prioritize updating personnel information. Double-check that you have everyone’s correct addresses for tax forms, phone numbers for contact, and emergency contacts in case of, well, an emergency.
  • Remind staff about the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) — assistance for booksellers with unforeseen medical and financial emergencies and mental health services.

7.    And while you’re thinking about emergencies…

Create and/or review emergency procedures with staff:

  • What to do if there’s an earthquake: Does your earthquake kit need fresh food and water?
  • What to do if there’s an electrical outage: Do your flashlights have batteries that work? Does the staff know when/how to evacuate the store?
  • What to do if there’s a flood: Does staff know where water shutoffs are? Do you have absorbent pads, sand bags, and/or a mop on hand just in case?
  • What to do if there’s a fire: Does staff know when and how to evacuate? Are your fire extinguishers charged? Does staff know how to use them?
  • And (this is a tough one to even think about, but…) talk about what to do in an active shooter situation. Here’s a good resource to pull information from.
  • Check out “This is a Fire Drill,” where ABA's Director of Education, Kim Hooyboer, reviews best practices for preventing and preparing for crises in your store.

8.    Invest in time to think about money.

  • Invest a couple of hours in quiet time reviewing your financials. This is an opportunity to take a break from your day-to-day fire fighting and focus on your store’s sustainability. Hopefully you participated in ABACUS last year and can use your customized report. If not, a general ABACUS 2022 report is available on BookWeb.
  • Watch our Decoding the P&L session for ideas on how to save money, examples of how to discuss financials with staff, and how to view ABACUS and your financials to assess where you’re doing well and where there’s opportunity to improve profitability.
  • Now’s a good time to take on any necessary large capital expenses like new POS systems or computers, new fixtures, or building improvements. You’ll have cash from the holiday season and gain the maximum amount of depreciation expense for the year by doing it early.
  • Sign up for Batch now to make paying invoices more efficient (and greener). It’s free and the more booksellers who sign up, the more publishers who will join, the more savings through efficiency for the industry. (All UK booksellers and publishers use Batch and wonder why we don't!) And if you incur bank fees, Batch will reimburse you one fee per month for six months! Contact Nathan Halter for more information or assistance.

9.    In the bookstore world, the holiday season is like a party and the post-party clean up is all about inventory.

  • Double-check your inventory on hand to make sure your database is accurate.
  • Clear out the special orders and holds that weren’t picked up.
  • Review publisher-shared markdowns and put designated titles on sale to clear them out and minimize the shipping and payroll costs of returns.
  • Start returning books that are eligible for credit.

10.    Plan the New Year!

  • 365 days (give or take) lie ahead. Make the most of them by setting goals for the year.

Happy New Year!