Holiday Prep for Small Businesses

santa shopping cart

“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

Dr. Seuss

It seems like every year the holidays approach us even faster than before. I remember years ago being able to actually enjoy every single season in its entirety before having another one being shoved down my throat. But today major retailers like Target, Nordstrom, and Victoria's Secret are already rolling out their holiday specials. If you are in the business of retail, you had better get going if you want to compete with the big boys.
Unfortunately, today's fast paced digital environment doesn't allow for us to take our time with introducing our next great idea. Preparation for competition in the open market takes a fair amount of dedication and detailed planning. If done correctly, your holiday selling season can be more successful than your entire fiscal year. Here are some tips on preparing for a busy holiday season.
1- Treat the next day as if it were your first day
Sometimes it's important to take a step back and reevaluate your business and the goals you want to achieve. What worked for you in the beginning may not work anymore now that your business has grown. Preparing for a busy season is a great time for you to begin to reevaluate the lessons you've learned along the way, and implement new practices. Take a look at your products and services and see what works best for your business goals. Add new information to your business or marketing plans. If possible, meet with a mentor, financial adviser, or even a fellow entrepreneur for tips on how to improve the flow of your company.
2-Take a good look at your inventory
Go over inventory and see what has been working for you. What are your best sellers? What are the worst? There may be some items in your inventory that you absolutely love, but your customers see as mediocre. Be honest with yourself about poor sales. Is there something that you can do to improve these products, or is it simply time to let them go for good?
Its also a good time to bring out new items you may have been mulling over. Introduce new products with a "limited edition" tagline or offer them at an introductory rate that will only be available for a short time. Hold a flash sale to get rid of old stock, or include them as a "gift with purchase" when people buy new items. Implement a strong marketing plan to make people aware of these new products and services.
By all means do not sell yourself short, but pick a few items that you can afford to offer at a discounted rate. If discounting these services are too much of a financial burden, perhaps you can offer this to only a select segment of your customer base. Holiday gifting suites are also increasingly popular. Run a special for every 10th customer you receive that day, or offer free items to go along with specific sales items.
3- Prep your employees
A retail business can thrive or fail based on it's level of support. Many businesses make the mistake of losing touch with their employees as their business grows. Not only do employees need to feel appreciated, but there also needs to be an appropriate level of communication between the owner and their staff. You can't expect for your staff to have the same goals as you have when it comes to your business. You also cannot assume that they are aware of your goals. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open so that everyone remains on the same page.
The holidays can be increasingly stressful for retail managers and staff. Learning new products and new sales methods can be incredibly frustrating; and feeling unappreciated can cause an employee to lose their enthusiasm. Teamwork is key to having a successful holiday season. Take the time to make sure that employees are well aware of all sales, VIPS, and company goals. Also, encourage them to give a little bit extra in terms of customer service as shoppers tend to become more cranky during holiday shopping.
4- Be Personal

When all else fails, Show up! As the owner of a business, especially one with local popularity, it is important to show people who you are. People identify more with companies who show their personal side. People will appreciate you and are more likely to tell a friend when the owner of a business shows their appreciation. You can also gain more insight from valued customers by engaging in conversation and observing their purchasing patterns. Taking the time to be more hands on with your customers may uncover customer needs that you didn't even know existed.