Handling The Holidays: Tips For Small Businesses

In the retail business, getting ready for Christmas means more than just decorating your front window with twinkling lights and festive ornaments. You have to ramp up your inventory to accommodate the needs of holiday shoppers – and offer deals or incentives to ensure customers choose you over your competitors. If you count on online shoppers for a lot of your revenue, you have even more work to do before Christmas, because you’ll have to make sure you can handle order fulfillment.

Feeling a little unprepared for the holiday rush? Don’t worry – the tips below should help.

Hire more help

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday shopping accounted for 19.3 percent of total retail sales for all of 2012. This year, online sales are projected to increase by 13 to 15 percent over last year’s figures for November and December. If you don’t have the staff to handle an increase in on-site or online sales, you could end up with some very unhappy customers. So you’re going to need some help.

Don’t wait until the last minute to find temporary workers for the Christmas season, because high-volume retailers may snag all the temp workers in your area before you place that classified ad. Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl’s plan to hire a total of 175,000 workers for the 2013 holiday season.

Stock Supplies

In addition to increasing your inventory to meet demand, you’ll also need to stock the supplies you need to do business. Assuming you’re going to extend your store hours during peak shopping season, you’ll have a lot less time to deal with ordering supplies.

Stock up on ink and tape for your cash register and credit card machine. Make sure you’ve got back-of-the-house supplies your additional employees will need, too, like hand soap. And if you’ll be shipping orders from your business, order extra boxes, mailing cartons, packaging tape and labels.

Market Creatively

You don’t want to end the year with loads of unsold inventory, so think about how you can offer special deals with a holiday theme. For example, you could create your own take on the classic carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” offering a discount on a different product, each day for 12 days. You could launch a social media campaign via Foursquare, giving customers a price break when they “check in” at your store. Decorate your store and share pictures via Twitter or Instagram – you never know what personal touch may attract more customers.

Don’t be a Scrooge

Don’t focus so intently on profits that you overlook the needs of your employees. Be respectful of the fact that they have families they’ll want to spend time with and may need a little time off here and there. Show them you value them by surprising them with free lunch.

Businesses are judged by more than just their customer service and order fulfillment – the way you treat your employees matters, too. When you show a little holiday spirit toward your staff, eventually, word gets around that you’re a good person to work for. And in turn, you cultivate a customer base that comes back year after year.

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