With the holidays officially around the corner, retail chaos is sure to follow… or is it?

Though November and December introduce some of the busiest shopping days of the year, it doesn’t have to mean that you can’t be prepared to embrace the rush, enjoy the season and welcome sales from both new and loyal customers. ‘Tis the season for festivity, after all, so what better way to celebrate your store this holiday season than to celebrate it by being prepared?

Below, gain five tips to help you plan in advance for a successful season of holidays festivities, customer appreciation, employee management and of course, sales. 

Tip #1: Prepare for Seasonal Decorating


Nothing says holidays like white lights, festive wreaths and a heavy dose of seasonal decorating both in your store and on its exterior. Whether you prefer classic holiday décor or something more bold, plan in advance so that you have all your decorations ready to be incorporated into your store merchandising and façade as early as Thanksgiving but certainly no later than Small Business Saturday, which takes place November 26th and is known as a kick off to the holiday season specific for small businesses. A few other tips to help make your store feel more festive? Identify your seasonal music in advance by creating a great store play list, as well as introduce a seasonal scent that will not only greet your customers with warmth and comfort, but also remind them that the holidays are here and it’s time to shop.

Tip #2: Secure Holiday Seasonal Staff


Team work is always a good thing, but often busy merchants manage so much on their own throughout the year that they assume they can do it all even during the busiest shopping season of the year. The holidays, however, introduce more to your day to day routine – including sales, special events, community initiatives and more – which mean that they also demand for extra TLC to help keep your store thriving when it comes to both operations and sales. To help do this, seasonal employees are important to introduce to your store in an effort to keep up your overall store needs. From interviewing candidates to identifying the right staff to training your new hires on store procedures, inventory and more, there’s no better time than now to begin planning for your holiday seasonal staff. Another tip? Consider having an employee on call during all working hours in case your store gets busier than anticipated or another staff member isn’t able to work their scheduled hours last minute. Having these extra hands will not only help you manage the rush of the holidays, but also help you welcome more sales since they can assist in customer support and overall store operations.   


Tip #3: Plan and Identify Dates for Special Events


The holidays are all about celebrations, so why not incorporate your business into this theme? Among the various events you should consider including for your store this holiday season is Small Business Saturday, which takes place the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Founded by American Express in 2010 as a way to support, celebrate and bring more customers to small shops nationwide, Small Business Saturday is now in its 7th year and welcomed a reported 95 million customers last year who supported this day by shopping small. Additionally, merchants can sign up at ShopSmall.com to gain a variety of free resources, event ideas and inspiration to help them in their Small Business Saturday planning. Beyond this day – taking place November 26th this year – retailers should also aim to have some other in-store events to help enjoy the holiday season in its entirety. For example, maybe you host loyal customers to a VIP shopping night in mid December or offer mimosas and pastries every Saturday leading up to Christmas, kicking it off with Small Business Saturday. Often, events don’t have to be grand to still be beneficial – but they do take time and thought to get organized, on your calendars and effectively marketed to your customers. Be sure and identify each of these steps now so you can ensure a festive filled holiday season of events, kicking off with Small Business Saturday on November 26th.


Tip #4: Begin to Promote Holiday Hours


Shifting your store hours to welcome seasonal, holiday shoppers is a great way to gain new business, more sales and support your community at large. It’s also a great way to compete with big box merchants who we know are also extending their hours this holiday season. To help plan for your altered schedule, identify what the hours will be of your immediate business neighbors, as well as find out what your local competition is offering for extended hours. These details can help you identify what makes sense for your small business and most importantly, for your customers, as well. Remember that even one or two nights a week of extended hours is better than zero – particularly those last few days leading up to Christmas where there tends to be a rush of last minute shoppers.  


Tip #5: Have Holiday Gift Wrapping Essentials Ready-To-Go


Wrapping a gift is one thing… wrapping it beautifully is another thing. This holiday season, treat your customers to a signature, holiday gift wrapping experience unique to your store that will make them want to return again and again thanks to this added perk. When holiday shoppers know that a store delivers not only great inventory but also beautiful gift wrapping, it becomes an incentive for them to return to this store versus another because it saves them time, adds an extra special something to their purchase and becomes a more memorable gift-giving experience. Create a signature holiday look for your gift wrapping this season, plus offer items already wrapped and ready to go for last minute shoppers. Additionally, don’t forget to stock up on all holiday packaging essentials that may include bags, tissue paper, gift receipts, gift cards, tape and more.


Finally, there is a simple yet powerful feeling that comes with the holidays for many folks and as a small business owner, you can leverage this momentum and provide memorable, meaningful holiday customer experiences that will not only support your customers this holiday season, but leave them wanting to support your business all year round. Part of a consumer’s choice to shop somewhere depends on how they feel when they are there, so embrace the holiday cheer as you look ahead to the 2016 holiday season… and enjoy. After all, the holidays are a time to celebrate and your being a small business owner is certainly something to celebrate!

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About the Author

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Founder and Publisher of Retail Minded, a publication committed to supporting independent retailers through news, education and support, as well as the Co-Founder of the Independent Retailer Conference. Recognized for her expertise in independent retail, Reyhle has published thousands of articles about small business and is the Author of the book “Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business” from McGraw-Hill. Additionally, Reyhle has contributed to Forbes, Fiverr, IBM and more, and has been the Spokesperson for Small Business Saturday from American Express since 2014. Learn more about Retail Minded at www.retailminded.com, at @RetailMinded on Twitter or at Facebook.com/RetailMinded.