‘Tis the season to be spendy – at least small business owners hope it is. The joy of the holiday shopping season hits home for entrepreneurs who meet their sales goals and profit projections during the busy stretch leading to Christmas. For many operators, effectively navigating the holiday spending blitz can mean the difference between a prosperous year, and cash flow struggles.
Planning for the brisk holiday spending season is a year-long job for retailers and other entrepreneurs hoping to capitalize on the annual event. Advance efforts go a long way setting the stage for a smooth season, but even well-laid plans are sometimes thrown out the window when the holiday shopping crush reaches full fervor. Thankfully, the forecast looks good for sellers, and there are moves you can still make to squeeze extra juice from the fourth-quarter consumer bonanza.
The buildup to the holiday shopping season is a stressful period for store owners and sales associates. Like an athlete preparing for a taxing event, you’ve worked hard getting ready for the most important days of your professional year. With so much at stake and business demands pulling you in every direction, your patience, focus, and ability to concentrate may suffer. Already stretched thin, you may need to take a step back, in order to regroup before the tidal wave of seasonal activity hits.
If you feel frazzled anticipating fourth-quarter challenges, you can bet your staff is also affected, leading up to the holiday shopping frenzy. Bringing together your employees for staff meetings at key points during prime selling season can help ease everyone’s concerns, ensuring you and your employees are on the same page. Spending the time together creates opportunities for you to motivate staff and respond to any challenges or suggestions shared by team members.
Pre-holiday meetings are good times to unveil sales incentives, bonus programs, and other employee perks. Additional training can also be undertaken, helping to boost staff confidence and give you peace of mind, knowing your employees will excel in the face of holiday demands.
Expand Cross-selling Opportunities
Small business operators, particularly retailers, face stiff competition from big business. As an independent retailer, top shelf customer service should be one of your strengths, setting you apart from big box stores and the oft impersonal e-commerce experience. With the fourth-quarter selling season ramping up, you can’t afford to let selling opportunities pass you buy. Well-trained staff members play a crucial role informing customers and closing sales – including cross-selling recommendations that can dramatically boost your average sales receipt.
As well as strategically displaying groups of goods in your stores, to maximize the effect of merchandising; it also pays to rehearse selling situations with associates, so they are prepared to automatically upsell related items. Even during your busiest times, cashiers should resell at the point of sale, reinforcing the value of a purchase and suggesting other complimentary products. Positioning accessories and other easy add-ons near your registers creates additional cross-selling opportunities for everyone working the sales floor.
Keep Reaching Out
It’s easy for even your most loyal customers to forget about you during the holiday crush. Repeatedly reaching out during the months leading up to the New Year is one way to remind them you’re ready, willing, and able to help them through the holiday season.
Email campaigns, personalized mailings, direct voice messages, and texts can all be effective ways to reach members of your customer list. In addition to special deals and coupons for subscribers, try to share helpful information they can use during the season. If you sell gourmet products or kitchen tools, for instance, including recipes makes your store newsletter more valuable to your email subscribers. Fourth-quarter communications should also alert customers to special in-store events you’re planning.
Emphasize Gift Cards
Gift cards are a winning proposition for small businesses. Research shows card recipients don’t hold to a strict spending limit when redeeming gifts. Instead, shoppers tend to spend more than the value of gift cards, essentially adding a second sale to your books, each time you redeem a card. Gift cards also promote your brand. Recipients aren’t always familiar with your product line, so when someone gets a gift card from your store, it’s like gaining a new customer.
Make the most of card sales by placing conspicuous displays and training cashiers and sales associates to actively promote gift cards in your showroom and at checkouts.
Independent entrepreneurs can sometimes unite for better results than individual businesses can achieve on their own. Putting forth special offsite holiday events with participants from related industries can be worthwhile, enabling you to split promotional costs and make a bigger splash than you’d make by yourself. And if your business is clustered among other independents, why not organize a holiday “stroll” or open house to draw traffic to the area?
Don’t Check Out Too Soon
The holiday shopping season has undergone significant shifts over time. So much so that the retail juggernaut now carries on beyond the Christmas holiday. Highly anticipated after-Christmas sales have become a staple of holiday retailing, resulting in some of the best selling days of the season. Though you and your staff may be running thin by December 26th, finishing strong can push you over the top, turning a satisfactory selling season into record months.
You only get to ride the holiday sales train once a year, so it’s essential to make the most of seasonal selling opportunities. Plotting your course in advance sets the stage for smooth sailing, and these tips can help you navigate fourth-quarter challenges.