Start Planning Early for a Profitable Holiday Season

Posted: July 11, 2024
Category: Spotlight on Business

The Summer weather may be warm and breezy, but it’s time for store owners to look ahead to Fall and Winter. Preparing for a profitable 4th quarter and holiday season requires careful planning and adequately managing inventory levels. Independent retailers must look at their businesses holistically and determine the best approach to generating in-store and online sales. While 80 percent of purchases happen in physical stores, e-commerce sales growth exceeded brick-and-mortar store sales by 302 percent. It’s up to each store to calculate the most effective method to allocate resources to support each tier of their omnichannel businesses. While operating an online and physical store has unique challenges, anticipating issues and understanding how the team will resolve them will make everyone’s life easier—especially during the hectic holiday season. So, the sooner you get started, the better.

Order Sufficient Inventory

Few things send customers to competitors faster than a store being out-of-stock of the products they hoped to buy. Every missed sale takes stores further away from a profitable 4th quarter. Purchasing enough promotional merchandise is critical to wrap up the holiday season. While many independent retailers make the bulk of their purchases for the upcoming season at trade shows, new products may be introduced to the marketplace in succeeding months. Be proactive and check if there are popular products you may have overlooked that will be in high demand next season. While it’s good to be prepared, forecast how much merchandise to buy to avoid being stuck with excess holiday merchandise at the end of the season.

Create a Marketing Calendar

Developing a marketing calendar to highlight key dates and sales opportunities is helpful regardless of the season. The calendar should be easily visible so everyone can see and understand their assigned responsibilities. Critical dates like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and store-specific promotional events should be clearly marked. Early planning can help you target specific groups of customers, set up seasonal campaigns, update social media messaging, and rejuvenate your website. The point is to get noticed in a crowded playing field. Independent operations have the flexibility to quickly modify their campaigns when things aren’t going as planned. At the same time, mass merchants follow a preset template that leaves little room to maneuver. Everyone on your team must refer to the calendar to achieve optimum sales results.

Develop Omnichannel Campaigns

With so many retailers targeting the same shoppers, you’ll need to break through the cutter to persuade customers to shop for your business. Rather than trying to be like big box stores, take a more personalized approach by connecting with customers and potential shoppers via email, social media, and the company’s website. Promote any special services or unique products that other retailers may not offer. Statistics show shoppers are 19.2 times more likely to purchase online from stores offering pick-up services. There are advantages to being a family-owned or local business, especially on peak buying days and Small Business Saturday.

Schedule Employees for the Holidays

The holidays are hectic for customers and employees. People hold parties, families fly in from out of town, and some employees take unused vacation days. Like your customers, the folks who work for your organization feel added pressure during the season. However, their stress levels will be even higher if there are too few staff to manage the workload because their fellow workers are on vacation. It’s no fun dealing with long lines of angry customers, few scheduled breaks, and working extended hours.

Owners should meet with the team to discuss goals and expectations before the 4th quarter to ensure everyone is on the same page. Acknowledge the importance of having a work-life balance and express a g. Then, ensure everyone will develop an equitable schedule that provides ample coverage for the business and considers their personal needs. Discuss extended store hours for the holidays, vacation requests, and more if needed.

Spruce up your store and website

Adding a festive touch to your business will make it visually attractive for shoppers. Integrate the color theme and design you develop across digital and physical platforms to promote your store’s identity and convey consistent social media messaging. Remember to pay attention to windows, endcaps, and in-store displays dedicated to specific product categories.

Touch bases with Suppliers

It’s a good idea to confirm shipment schedules and pre-orders with suppliers. After all, they are swamped with orders, and you want to ensure that everything on your end goes smoothly. Imports should be ordered months in advance, and if they don’t arrive as scheduled, your business will miss the opportunity to maximize sales and disappoint customers.

Commit to a successful fourth quarter by starting early. Reviewing last year’s sales and expenses using your point-of-sales system can help you set goals for next season. Every operation should develop a plan that provides solutions for its customers and addresses the needs of its marketplace.