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Preparing your Small Business for the Holiday Season: Part 1

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

Hey Bosses,

The countdown is ON...the holiday season is basically, HERE! If you do not have an overall strategy for preparing your business for the holidays it is time to kick the tires and light the fires.

The data from the National Retail Federation shows that 20% - 40% of sales for small businesses happen in November and December. But wait, it gets better, sales are expected to increase between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent over 2018. That's an estimated total spending of about $730 billion. That should be reason enough to get your business holiday ready.

When I start preparing my biz for the holiday season, these are the first 5 things on my list:

1. Set Holiday Goals

What do you want for your business this holiday season? Is it driving more traffic to your blog, increasing attendance at your events, selling more product, growing your email list or servicing more customers? Understanding exactly what you want out of this holiday season and putting a plan together to work toward that goal is crucial. The previous blog outlines how to set Holiday Goals.

2. Count Inventory + Order Supplies

First, take stock of what you already have in inventory. Everything from packing supplies to pre-made items to the smallest supply you need to make your items. Make a list of all the supplies you will need to create, package, and ship your items. To know how much to order you will need forecast. New business (without any sales history from the previous holiday season) will need to create a sales forecast. If you have been in business for at least a year, you will need to review your numbers from 2018 Holiday Season. I suggest you do a simplified version of sales forecastingSales forecasting is the process of estimating future sales. It gives insight into how you should manage your time (and the time of those that work for you if you have employees or contractors), cash flow, and resources. It allows you to see, based on historical trends, how to plan for future potential holiday sales.

Some of the key things you are looking for are:

  • What items sold (even if only a small amount)

  • What items sold well (highlight the best sellers)

  • What items sold out (you will need to order more supplies for these items for sure)

  • What items did not do well (you may want to retire those)

  • What NEW items you will incorporate into mix for the holidays

Once you have this information, this will let you know which supplies (based on the items that sold well + any new item supplies) and how much (based on the number of items sold) you need to order for this year. Then I would increase that amount by at least 25%. This is in the hopes that you are reaching more people and growing your business. This percentage will fluctuate from business to business based on the rate at which they are growing.

If you are a new business with no previous holiday sales, you need to decide which items you want to promote for the holidays (keep the list short + focus on what has been selling well so far), order supplies to make as many as you want to sell (be reasonable) and start promoting those items to your customers.

Once you figure out how much you need to order of your various supplies + packaging, START ORDERING.

3. Stock Inventory

If you have items that can be made before a customer orders, start stocking your inventory shelves (even if your shelves are your kitchen cabinets, we have all been there) with these items to help decrease your turnaround time during the holidays and increase sales. People order last minute and they love to find a great product that will also ship within a few days. Plan out what days of the week you are going to focus on creating inventory so that you are not too stressed out and too over worked leading up the holidays. Stock your BEST selling items FIRST.

4. Outline Fulfillment + Shipping Deadlines

Online customers want their items delivered as fast and as inexpensively as possible. When outlining your order fulfillment process factor in how long it takes to create, package, and ship the order. Due to high volume of orders it takes 1 - 3 business days to process retail orders for my business. Once an item is shipped, the time it takes to get to the customer depends on your method of shipping. You will need to decide in what time frame you can complete and ship an order, what shipping methods you will offer your customer + what - order by date - deadline you need to set to guarantee your customers receive their items for the holidays.

Key things you want to keep in mind:

  • Offer free shipping, if possible. We offer free shipping on first class mail only.

  • Offer various shipping options. We offer shipping upgrades that out customers can purchase - priority mail + overnight express mail.

  • Transit times will take a day or two longer during the first few weeks of December so plan accordingly.

Make sure all information regarding shipping + deadlines to order are visible on your site, in your email campaigns and on your social platforms for customers to see.

5. Decide on Holiday Promotions

In order to tap into the estimated $730 billion shoppers will spend this holiday season you need to offer them something that makes them want to purchase your product. What will your enticement be to get them to click on your post, open your email or stop in your vendor booth? Maybe it is a percentage off, BOGO*, free item** with purchase, bundle options, and/or free gift wrapping. Whatever it is outline what you will offer and when you will offer it. Below are the key dates you need to be aware of to help you in planning your holiday promotions.

2019 Holiday Season Key Dates:

  • November 28 - Thanksgiving (United States)

  • November 29 - Black Friday (US)

  • November 30 - Small Business Saturday (US)

  • December 1 - Advent begins

  • December 2 - Cyber Monday or Mega Monday (US/United Kingdom/Canada/Australia) Cyber Monday extends to Tuesday in Australia

  • December 3 - Giving Tuesday

  • December – 12 Days of Christmas – you pick the dates if you decide to offer 12 days of Christmas

  • December 9 – Green Monday - Green Monday is the biggest online shopping day in December. It falls on the second Monday of the month. On this day, most major retailers start their sales online at midnight.

  • December 13 – Free Shipping Day On this day many big & small merchants offer Free Shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve

  • December 24 – Advent Ends

  • December 24 - Christmas Eve

  • December 25 - Christmas Day

  • December 31 - New Year’s Eve

  • January 1 - New Year’s Day

*If you offer BOGO make sure you understand that it does not always have to be BUY one GET one FREE. It can be BOGO 50% off or whatever percentage you decide. ALSO, I would be careful of offering BOGO unless you know your profit margins are big enough to take the discount. Another option is offering BOGO ONLY on items that cost very little for you to create. You do not want to offer your larger items BOGO, this will cost you money instead of making you money.

** Offering a free item doesn't mean it has to be a FULL item. It can be an add on that you offer. Ex: I offered a free charm with every bangle bracelet OR a free sticker/decal with every journal purchase. Keep it small but make it worth the offer for the customer. Make it something they can use.

I hope you are taking notes and putting a plan into action for your business this holiday season. If you are ready to move forward, read Part 2!


Your girl boss biz bestie,



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