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8 Tips to Get Your Retail Small Business Ready for the Holiday Rush

Here it comes. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are all a week or less away, which means the official start of the holiday season is almost here. For many retail small businesses, this is the busiest part of the calendar – and often the one that can make or break the whole year.

The problem is, most other small (and large) retail businesses are in the same boat – they’re all competing for the same pool of customers. That means if you want to maximize your sales, you have to be smart about how you tackle the holiday rush.

To help you through the next couple months, here are a few tips and other advice about how your small retail shop can enjoy big returns this holiday season – including some last-minute prep for Black Friday and the other important retail holidays.

Preparing Your Retail Small Business for the Holiday Shopping Season

1. Service, Service, Service. The holiday season can bring out the Grinch in even the most level-headed of people, but subpar service is a quick route to an in-store blow-up. A scene on a busy shopping day can not only result in an immediate lost sale to the unhappy customer, but it also sours the overall experience for everyone else in the store. That’s not the story you want people telling about their Black Friday experience. “All hands on deck” is the most common refrain this time of year, but a better mantra would be “best hands on deck.” As much as you can, make sure your friendliest and most competent workers are on the front lines. Be visible, too – that’ll put you in position to put out fires, and employees will be more likely to be on their best behavior with you in sight.

2. Think Like a Shopper: At this point, most of the major retailers and even some small outfits have already released their holiday sales promotions on the web and in the local newspaper. Scour them like a consumer who’s getting ready for midnight shopping madness! Because you’re a small business, you may have the flexibility to make last-minute changes to one or a few of your deals to come out looking better than the competition. Just make sure to promote these advantages across social media, via email and on your website before the big shopping days.

3. Don’t Use the Same Old Sales: Just about every retail business is going to have a sale in one form or another, and shoppers will see enough percent signs to make their eyes glaze over. One way to set your sale apart is to get creative with it. Promotions such as “mystery sales” (where customers walk away with an unknown prize spanning from free merchandise to a percentage off their next purchase), or even a sweepstakes where the cost of entry is merely passing through your door, is better than simply hoping your cost cuts are bigger than the competition’s.

4. Reward Loyalty: Repeat customers are worth their weight in gold. Not only have they proven that they can be a source of revenues down the road, they’re also more likely to promote you through word of mouth, bringing in additional business. Be willing to bend a little extra for these customers, as a little flexibility now is more likely to pay off several times over in the future.

5. Highlight the Best Values In-Store: Customers who visit you for a particular deal are apt to walk by your other bargains if you’re not pointing them out. Your store should have an ample number of easily seen promotions – both so people can find what they want, but also so they can discover deals that they might have missed in your marketing materials.

6. Have Backup Plans: As a small business, your inventory may be much more limited than your customers’ demands. But you don’t want to lose out on sales just because you could only keep so much of a popular item in stock. For one, make sure all your employees know what items to redirect customers to should their top choice be sold out. Also, where possible, have an idea of when you can restock potentially popular items ahead of time – so if you do sell out, you can keep the sale in-house by offering to ship said item once you’ve refilled your inventory.

7. Don’t Give Up on Lost Sales: If your retail small business also includes web operations, look into establishing “abandoned cart” emails. In short, if a customer browses your site and goes so far as to actually select items to put in the cart, but turns away at the last minute, you can market to them again with an email – possibly sweetening the deal or offering other promotions to close on the sale.

8. Make Sure Your Website is Ready: Even if you’ve stocked the must-have holiday item of 2017 and have marketed your website like a pro, your online sales still could be a disaster if your website isn’t ready to handle the sudden influx of traffic. Tools such as Paessler, LoadImpact and WebLoad can help you determine whether your web server is up to the task.

McManamon & Co.’s business consulting services can keep you operating on the highest level not just for the holiday season, but year-round – whether you need help with strategic planning, tax guidance or even taking your office paperless. Call us at 440.892.9088 or contact us online to learn how we can get you ready for every major retail push on the calendar.


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