Preparing Your Small Retail Business for the Holidays

For most people, the holidays are a happy time - but the jolly feeling may be particularly strong for a small retailer that is looking forward to hearing the jingle of the cash register, notching up Christmas sales to be recorded by their accounting software.

Here's how to make the most of the season:

Prepare for the rush

For many retailers, November and December offer their busiest period. Make sure you are prepared for a potential flurry of extra shoppers by training staff members on how to manage the rush. Emphasizing exceptional customer service can make a big difference to stressed-out holiday shoppers. If you don't think your current staff will be enough, consider taking on temporary help.

Ecommerce retailers should make sure their websites are in tip-top shape, with user-friendly features, clearly explained purchase policies and any special promotions featured prominently.

Promote the holiday spirit

This can be as easy as applying a seasonal theme to your website or putting up decorations in your bricks-and-mortar store. It can also involve giving away free candy canes with every purchase or arranging for staff to wear Santa hats. Encouraging a holiday spirit will help nudge people into opening their pocketbooks, boosting the numbers recorded by your accounting software.

Adjust your marketing approach

Get people ready for the holiday season - and let them know you're ready - through marketing. This could involve taking out ads in the local newspaper or utilizing special holiday circulars or flyers.

If you have a budget for SEO marketing, begin thinking about how consumers' search terms may change over the holiday season and adjust your efforts accordingly for higher conversions. If you send out an email newsletter to customers, endow them with a gift-giving theme, such as "top 10 presents for dad." Include customer testimonials for maximum effect.

Remind people of your business by distributing holiday-themed promotional items featuring your name and logo, such as a calendar for the coming year or an inexpensive Christmas tree ornament.

Introduce special products

Your small business can create attractive gift baskets using your existing merchandise, in order to encourage people to buy them as gifts for friends and family. If packaged attractively, these groupings of items can be sold for a higher price than the sum of the individual products.

You may also consider whether there are any particular seasonal items you could stock that may appeal to holiday shoppers.

Offer incentives

Start preparing your incentives early, as some shoppers begin looking around for the best deals months ahead of time. Consider which types of incentives will appeal most to your customers - free shipping? Buy one get one free? Percentage discounts?

Think about strategies for enticing people to return to your shop or website, such as changing your offers on a weekly or biweekly basis. You can send a list of current deals to your customers via email, including a promotion code for additional savings.

Send cards

Sending a holiday card to customers is a great low-cost strategy to promote your business. You can send paper cards or e-cards with a holiday greeting and even a photograph of you and your staff.

Consider sending cards or postcards to past customers as well, to remind them of your existence - you could even include a coupon or offer if they do business with you again.

In fact, if your accounting software indicates you have room for it in your budget, you could include a special offer for every customer who makes a purchase in the first month of the new year.

Manage your finances

It is important to use your accounting software to budget for the ups and downs of your business cycle. If the holiday season represents a peak in sales, make sure you are adequately preparing for periods in which customers are likely to be making fewer purchases. When cash flow is more limited, you will be glad you did so.

During the holiday season, your business may also face some additional costs for various goodwill gestures. For example, do you plan to throw a holiday party for your employees? Are you going to give out gifts or bonuses? Make sure you have adequately budgeted for extra holiday spending.

Finally, even if you choose to spend conservatively on a holiday party, there are many options available to ensure that your staff is full of holiday cheer. Instead of paying for an outside venue, you could host a potluck at your home or even at the office. Just make sure that you are not cutting costs at the expense of employee satisfaction.ADNFCR-1776-ID-18918792-ADNFCR

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