They may not be decking the halls yet, but 17 percent of shoppers surveyed by the National Retail Federation said they start researching holiday purchases before September, while eight percent reported making purchases before the start of autumn. That holiday mentality holds steady in September before rocketing up in October and November.
Customers are looking ahead, and your small business needs to get ready for this busy season.
Now, before the holidays get hectic, is the perfect time to plan ahead for success. Many experienced business owners start this planning process in June or July! Prepare for a successful holiday season by reviewing these six tasks and delegating with your team.
1. Make a list, check it twice, and order supplies
Reference your orders from last season to anticipate how much of basic supplies you’ll need, whether that’s shipping supplies and packaging, paper towels and toilet paper for your restrooms, or branded gift cards for holiday shoppers. If this is your first year in business, your network may be able to guide you through your first holiday ordering season. Remember to order early to avoid rush shipping charges later in the season. Being prepared can help you meet your customers’ needs with ease.
2. Make holiday staff schedules
It’s important to determine your holiday operating hours, whether that means you’ll be open longer than usual or you may plan some additional days when your business is closed. Be sure to communicate those holiday hours with your staff, and explain your expectations of your employees during the holiday season. Ask your team to request any holiday time off by a certain date so you can plan employee schedules accordingly.
3. Order or make extra inventory
Anticipate holiday orders by manufacturing additional product or placing orders with your vendors. Be aware that your suppliers are under their own holiday pressure, and may have ordering deadlines to get product to you in time for the holidays. Mark these deadlines on a calendar you can see easily so these ordering deadlines don’t pass you by.
4. Freshen up your website
Give your business website a once-over to make sure it’s ready for a busy holiday season. Is the design tidy and easy to use? Can customers easily find your most popular products or services? Does your ecommerce checkout work smoothly? If you’re the person who works on your website most often, hand this task to a staffer or a trusted friend. They’ll be able to spot the issues you might miss.
5. Get in the spirit – decorate!
Even if you feel like the Grinch when it comes to holidays, your business will need a little extra flair to help stand out from the crowd during this busy season. Your whole team can get involved: plan a late-night or early-morning decorating party. Order takeout for your team, play festive music (or regular music, for the Grinches among us), and transform your business in a matter of hours. Remember to check corners for cobwebs, and dust your fixtures to help your merchandise shine.
6. Develop and execute a marketing campaign
Why will customers want to spend time at your small business this holiday season? Determine the answer, and build a marketing campaign around it. Maybe you have the best selection in town. Maybe your seasonal desserts are coveted all year long. Maybe your customer service can solve any shopping conundrum. Build your holiday marketing about what makes your business stand out from the crowd.
Don’t forget to plan for Small Business Saturday! Kick off the holiday season on Nov. 25 by adding your business to the Shop Small map, and take advantage of free promotional materials available to small businesses. More than 112 million customers reported shopping on this day celebrating small businesses last year!
Already feeling overwhelmed by the holiday season? Meet with a SCORE mentor who can guide you through the preparation process.