To Wild Birds Unlimited, the holidays are an opportunity to rejoice, reflect and plan for the future. It involves travelling thousands of miles and lots of holiday cheer.
Manager of Visual Merchandising Jane Jones, Director of Retail Operations Amy Moore, and four other Wild Birds Unlimited staff members take a journey every year, which they have dubbed the Mistletoe Tour. It’s an opportunity to bond with each other, spend some quality time with a number of their wonderful Wild Birds Unlimited franchisees, leverage the holiday season and take stock of their performance. It may, in fact, be the most productive and fun activity they do all year.
About six years ago, Jones and Moore brainstormed the idea that is now named the Mistletoe Tour.
“We realized how great it would be to go to the stores during or just before the holidays to wish our franchisees a happy holiday,” says Moore. “We decided to take pictures along the way, and from that we’ve built a sort of library, which we share online. So as we’re traveling, owners can track where we are, see products and pictures of owners and staff.”
Most importantly, the tour does a fantastic job of building morale throughout the company. Exploring the field and getting out of the office is very beneficial for the small team, which includes business coaches and their training and human resources manager.
“Our experience at every store is completely different,” says Jones. “We spend about an hour to an hour and a half gathering ideas, figuring out which products are selling best, what marketing has been the most effective, and what each location’s upcoming marketing plans are.”
They also take this time to recognize what franchisees are doing well and what they themselves could be doing better.
“We welcome, and encourage, any suggestions for improvement,” says Moore. “We want to really know how we’re doing as a support team so that we can serve franchisees as best we can. It’s good for everyone involved, and, in turn, is good for business.”
Jones, in particular, has taken note that something they can improve on is being more explicit about how elaborate they want the decoration in each of the stores to be.
“I make the assumption that people know how to decorate for the holidays,” says Jones. “Retail is a different game than just decorating around your home. It needs to be elaborate, like a really big Christmas tree.”
This is just one example of a great lesson they learned during the tour—to realize that just because they think something is obvious, it may not be to franchisees. It’s really up to them to communicate what they want and think will be best for business.
The travelling team of the Mistletoe Tours favorite aspect of the trip, however, is the rah-rah spirit it induces. Those feelings create momentum to help them make the most of the holiday season, and still have the energy afterward to consider, “what’s next?”
While reveling in the present, yet looking towards the future, the Mistletoe Tour crew conducts some of their best ideation sessions in the car travelling from store to store.
“We brainstorm ways in which we can better communicate with our franchisees what will make the biggest difference to their business. Every year, we ask ourselves what we can do differently to provide anything and everything franchisees may need to maximize the holiday. I find a lot of value internally to talk shop in a less informal environment.”