The holidays are oftentimes the most stressful time of year for business managers and owners. While the exuberant spending of consumers can be chaotic, it can also be quite beneficial, if handled correctly.
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For smaller businesses, the holiday season can make or break a reputation. Along with the stress of your own business, you may struggle to balance your additional social and familial engagements. Needless to say, the holidays have turned into a large balancing act for small business owners.
Like all businesses, you should be expanding your goals around the holiday season. Determine which holidays are most likely to affect your own business in terms of your product line and consumer base. For example, if you own a chocolatier, you will need to prepare for Christmas, but even more so for Valentine’s Day, once that comes around.
Once you have determined which holidays are most applicable to you, outline a few different promotions that will entice new customers or reward old ones. You can provide discounts on certain products or hand out coupons a month or two in advance.
Establish discounts that will be meaningful to your customers, because that is something people expect out of the holiday season. Of course, plan ahead in order make sure these discounts are ultimately beneficial to your business beforehand.
After all of your discounts and promotions have been decided on, market them to consumers before the holiday season hits full swing. If you’re going to have a Black Friday sale, make sure your consumers heard about it. This is especially important if you operate a location separate from a mall or shopping center. People will need to be enticed to your location if it is separate from other shopping opportunities.
With such an increase in buying and selling during the holidays, it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared for emergencies. Stockpiling inventory is one way to avoid customer dissatisfaction. Extrapolate from the previous year what inventory you will need for the current year. If your products are handmade or face similar limitations, calculate how much time it will take to produce enough products for the holidays.
Just like products, seasonal employees may also be necessary. Out of all the major retailers, 43 percent plan to hire seasonal employees. Of those people, 40 percent will be hired to support customer service. Additional hires will support the large crowds during the holidays, and will keep consumers happy. The increase in seasonal hires may require an adjustment in how they are managed as well. Using a CRM system could help you keep better track of customer reps and customers.
There are several key issues that are specifically associated with the holidays requiring extra organization:
Gift cards. Gift cards are tricky to manage and often avoided by small businesses. Some small business owners set aside money earned from gift cards until they have been redeemed by the customer. This helps businesses avoid spending money before they have really earned it.
Websites. Making sure your website is fully operational and can handle high traffic volumes. This is especially important if you expect to make online sales. Even if you don’t have online sales, it’s important that people have the ability to look you up at a moment’s notice. Have the phone number of your hosting company and an IT expert on hand, just in case.
Decor. If may not seem like a big deal, but your consumers will likely expect extra effort with merchandising and the overall appearance of your store. If you run a website, you may want to add some festive touches. Just make sure you have what you need before the holidays begin.
The most important aspect of your holiday preparations is to do your research and prepare in advance. Set up a game plan and follow it. Plan for best and worst case scenarios, and don’t forget to enjoy your own holiday.
Header image courtesy of Flickr user brillianthues