How to Prepare Your Business for the Holiday Season

The holiday season may be months away, but you should be planning for it now. That’s because 20 to 40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place in the last two months of the year. The stakes are too high to leave it to chance. So start decking the halls of your business with these holiday planning tips.

Have Your Sleigh Loaded

Getting people to you store is hard enough. Having them leave empty-handed because you ran out of stock is unthinkable. Work with your suppliers so you have timely access to more inventory, if you need it. They can help you establish reorder benchmarks by looking at your order and sales history. suggests looking at 90 days of lead time prior to the holiday. Some suppliers will even warehouse inventory so you don’t have to store it onsite.

Have a contingency plan ready if the worst happens and you run out. Consider giving rain checks, extending a sale, or offering free shipping for delayed orders.  

Check Your List—Twice

Remember, you have two locations—your physical store and your website. Now is a good time to do a performance check on your website, especially for mobile traffic. ZDNET says that 68 percent of all holiday traffic is mobile. 

How long does it take for your webpage to load? Small Business Trends reports that conversions fall by 20 percent for every second delay in mobile page loading time. Sites that load within five seconds have 70 percent longer user sessions. 

Another checkpoint is capacity. Can you site handle the increased traffic you expect? That’s particularly important if customers order online. Check with your internet service provider to see if you can add bandwidth.

Plan for Something Special in Santa’s Bag

Think about having something tucked away in your gift bag to differentiate your business from others. SCORE suggests two possibilities—free shipping and gift cards. They report 94 percent of online shoppers use free shipping. And gift cards are the second-most popular gift—one size truly fits all.

Another strategy is to offer gift ideas. Half of all shoppers say one of their top holiday stressors is not being able to find the right gift. That’s why some stores group related items together in one spot. You already have the merchandise in-house, so use it to arrange displays for different customers. For example, a sporting store might group all the gear and gadgets a 14-year-old soccer player might want in one convenient place.

Don’t Forget Your Elves

Service is king in the retail business, especially if you’re competing against chain stores. Your staff is the key to delivering it. Plan ahead to be sure you have adequate staffing. That includes planning for any time off during the holiday. 

Be sure to communicate your time-off policy and ask employees to schedule it in advance. Some businesses offer flex time or differential pay during the holidays. You may want to tap your pool of temporary workers to fill in the gaps. Don’t forget to plan for the time needed to train any new staff.

In the season of giving, some businesses use this time to show employees how much they are appreciated. The NFIB reports that 31 percent give salary bonuses, 27 percent give gifts and 26 percent hosted a holiday party. It may be a cliché, but it’s really the thought that counts when it comes to retaining employees.

The holiday season can make or break a retail business. Make sure you’re one of the shops who makes it by planning ahead. Start with these tips and have yourself a merry (and profitable) little holiday this year.

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