The National Retail Federation predicts a 4.1% growth in sales in November and December which is up from last year's 3.1% increase at the same time of year.
If accurate, it will be the first time since 2011 that holiday sales increased more than 4%.
That's nothing to sneeze at! This highly positive sales prediction calls for some serious preparation. Read on to find out ways to prepare your small business for this holiday season's sales rush.
1. Inventory Control
To prepare for a spike in sales, make sure you bulk up on inventory including the raw materials for products that sell well during the holiday. Of course you don't want to overdo it at risk of tying up cash, but ensure you keep the high demand products in stock so you can maintain a shorter inventory cycle.
How will you know what inventory to order? Do a thorough count of what you currently have in stock and then review your sales numbers from last year. Reorder more of the products that sold well depending on what you already have in stock. And if possible locate back up suppliers who can send you products quickly in case you run low.
Additionally, if your small business products are made to order, pre-make highly desired items to avoid a backlog of orders.
2. Showcase easily gifted merchandise
Who's not in a hurry during the holidays? Customers have money to spend and want to do it in the quickest most convenient way. One easy way to serve your customers quickly is by spotlighting merchandise at the front of your store or e-commerce page that can be gifted immediately.
Since providing gift wrapping at the time of purchase can significantly slow down your checkout speed, gather select products to put a simple bow and ribbon around. It's a small detail that customers in a hurry will appreciate.
3. Offer holiday specials
Almost everyone is a savvy budget shopper these days. Consumers stay highly knowledgeable on the best deals they can get for products they want. To pique the interest of these customers plan the promotions, coupons, and sales you'll offer during the holidays well in advance. Planning ahead will give you more time to spread the word about your holiday promotions. Plus your customers will be aware of your specials and can plan to hit your store to receive your holiday offerings.
Since marketing to your loyal customers is the most time and cost efficient, offer promotions tailored to repeat customers or members of your rewards club. Avoid large store-wide discounts that sound appealing, but are hurtful to your bottom line. Instead offer discounts based on product pricing.
4. Fine-tune your marketing
You've got the product and you've got the specials. Now you need to let people know about them. Try sending an email blast with a holiday greeting and coupon codes or promotion details. Consider adding a seasons greeting or warm message along with your holiday specials on your business website.
To capture the attention of customers shopping in your store, print fliers to hand out with your holiday hours, deals and popular holiday products. In addition, decorating and putting up seasonal signs will show visitors that you're in the holiday spirit and encourage them to buy. And don't forget to stay active on social media to promote your deals and stay connected with your customers.
5. Hire seasonal workers and train your staff
If you haven't yet hired seasonal staff, you should really consider getting a move on especially if you anticipate a substantial increase in business during the holidays. For seasonal workers to be most effective they must have the right training and experience working in your business operations. Otherwise you could face an increase in disorganization, loss and product damage.
And once you've brought new people on, hold storewide training specifically on what to expect during a holiday rush. Including topics like customer service, how to place orders, how to handle merchandise, speed and accuracy at checkout and locating merchandise in your stockroom.
6. Be knowledgeable of holiday scams
Preparing for the occurrence of holiday scams is definitely worth mentioning. During the holiday rush scammers come out with a vengeance because they hope to catch us with with our guard down long enough to get away with our cash.
A scam to look out for in retail stores is the quick change scam where customers present a large bill like $100 to pay for a small purchase. Then when the cashier goes to make change, the customer finds a small bill and confuses the cashier into giving them more change than they're due.
On the administrative and virtual side of your business, be vigilant of unusual-looking invoices that could be fake and avoid clicking on emails that seem out of the ordinary. They could be phishing attempts to gain sensitive information like credit card numbers, user names or passwords.
Although the retail sales predictions are remarkably promising for businesses everywhere, preparation is still the key to maximizing on the opportunity and keeping your store safe from holiday scams. Employ some of these preparation tips and you'll be well on your way to making tons of sales this holiday season.