How Your Business Can Start Preparing for “Buying Holidays” Now

Customer shopping for the holidays

First, there was “Black Friday,” the infamous day-after-Thanksgiving rush to the shopping malls and big box stores for massive holiday deals. Now, there are numerous buying holidays vying for customers’ attention, including “Cyber Monday” and “Small Business Saturday.”

If your business is well-prepared, these targeted buying days are a key part of a strong holiday season. The holiday season is when most retailers make 20 to 40 percent of their sales for the year and Deloitte predicts that the trend will continue in 2023 with holiday sales in the US topping $1.54 trillion.

Get ready to grow your business by preparing for the upcoming buying holidays! Ensure you have a profitable holiday season with this how-to guide. With some extra work now, you’ll be sure to have more jingle-jangle in your holiday season and more cha-ching in the coffers.

Step 1: Update your digital sales and marketing capabilities

With easy-to-use and inexpensive e-commerce tools like Squarespace and Shopify, every retail business should have an online component. This is one of the primary ways to boost your sales, especially on buying holidays like Cyber Monday. Want more proof? Forrester Research predicts that online holiday shopping will increase by 14.6% this year to $230 billion, and also indicates that Black Friday has become as big for online shopping as Cyber Monday.

That said, nothing will lose business faster than a website that crashes. Update your digital sales tools now and give yourself plenty of time to work out glitches. Test your e-commerce shop on every smartphone, tablet, and laptop that you can.

While you’re at it, look at every way to build your digital brand, from posting on Instagram to taking out cost-effective ads on social media networks, like Facebook, that can boost online visibility and keep your business front-of-mind for your target audiences. If you have an email list, send weekly email updates that highlight new merchandise and other specials.

Step 2: Order your holiday inventory now

According to the National Retail Federation, more than half of shoppers begin researching and planning their holiday purchases by October. These days, too, shoppers are far more likely to go to whichever retailer is most convenient, particularly those retailers that are fully-stocked and offering hassle-free returns and exchanges.

One way to make sure they shop with you is to have merchandise readily available. Having an effective inventory management system in place can help you prepare for seasonal fluctuations. This will show you your most popular items so you can stock up on them now.

You should also keep the latest trends in your industry in mind, and purchase specially branded or crafted gifts that make your merchandise stand out. Talk to your vendors to see if you can get discounts for buying in larger quantities or extended payment terms. You might be able to negotiate discounts for early payments, since you’ll be prepared with enough working capital too.

While you’re planning inventory purchases, you should also develop your pricing and marketing strategies. You’ll likely need some type of special offer to entice buyers. Will you offer discounts or bundles (like “buy one, get one” offers) on buying holidays? Maybe you can find a low-cost but desirable “loss leader” that breaks even (or may even lose money) to bring in customers and lead to purchases of additional, higher-cost items?

Developing your strategy now allows you to plan inventory purchases, as well as holiday marketing and advertising around it, well before the season starts.

Step 3: Staff up (and down) wisely

Along with inventory, another major holiday-season expense is your staffing. This is particularly important if you have a brick-and-mortar business, but you may also need additional staff to help fulfill online orders.

If your business has been through at least one holiday season, review your records to learn about when you truly need additional help. Is a week before Thanksgiving? Or, maybe as soon as early November?

Keep in mind that increasing your staffing is an investment in your business’s success, but you also need to hire wisely. If temporary help or commission-based salespeople are viable in your industry, consider these cost-effective, short-term options, too.

Step 4: Build your brand locally –get involved in your commercial district

While Black Friday is still the day that shoppers flock to department stores and big-box retailers, “main street” shopping districts have special events around Small Business Saturday, an event that’s attracting an increasing number of shoppers each year. These are great seasonal opportunities to make your business shine in your local community.

How can you get involved in Small Business Saturday? It may be as simple as contacting a local business association, taking out an ad or extending your store hours on the day. Some areas also have season-long events that provide a wealth of marketing and brand-building opportunities. Talk to other merchants in your area or local chamber of commerce if you’re not familiar with how to get involved. “The more, the merrier” is certainly true when it comes to attracting happy shoppers.

The key to boosting sales during this time is converting lookers to buyers. This is where promotional planning will really pay off. For example, can you offer a small giveaway when a purchase is made that day? It doesn’t have to be expensive and should be something that supports your brand, like a mug for your coffee and tea shop or a branded mini-gadget for your reclaimed furniture store.

Even if your business is typically all about e-commerce, setting up an in-person “pop-up” shop can be a great way to build your brand locally during buying holidays. Investigate your options – is there an empty storefront in your area’s business district? If so, ask if there are plans to activate it with pop-up shops and express your interest in setting up a temporary holiday store. Some business associations will proactively organize shared spaces for several small retailers.

Step 5: Get ready with sufficient working capital

Though the holidays seem a long way away, now is the time to prep for the big season! Don’t wait to boost your inventory until customers are making holiday purchases, and find the right contact now to secure a space in your city’s popular holiday bazaar. Your business needs to be ready to hit the ground running once the busy holiday season begins.

If pre-holiday business has been slow or you otherwise don’t have enough cash on-hand to give the season your very best shot, talk to your banker or local community lender (like Pursuit) now about securing a line of credit or loan. Many working capital loans have reasonable interest rates and repayment terms, and quick turnarounds from approval to funding.

Give yourself plenty of time to shop around and consider all your options. Remember to watch for predatory lenders and be sure that you know what you’re signing up for before you agree to any loans or lines of credit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand the terms.

Set your small business apart with great merchandise, awesome service and memorable branding

In today’s competitive retail environment, you need to optimize every opportunity for holiday sales. Though it may be difficult to compete with big-box retailers on price and selection, you can leverage your distinct advantages – artisan offerings, local roots, concierge-level service – during buying holidays and all season. With a little extra time, investment and effort now, you’re sure to have a very merry January!

IF you need working capital to start your holiday prep, talk to Pursuit. With more than 15 different loan programs and a team of lending experts at the ready, we can work with you to make this holiday season your best yet. Reach out to us today.

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