PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS, PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Getting a Jump on Holiday Sales

By at 27 October, 2021, 7:59 pm

 

By Barbara Weltman-

There are still many weeks before the traditional last minute holiday shopping rush. Business owners are generally feeling optimistic in light of the waning pandemic. But this year is different; there may not be much last-minute activity. In fact, Small Business Saturday may not be all that great this year. There are adverse factors that may depress holiday shopping, and consumers are being urged to “shop now” to stay ahead of supply chain disruptions. So small business retailers need to get moving now if they want to benefit from (and perhaps rescue) their holiday season.

Here are the issues at work and what you may be able to do about them.

Supply Chain Challenges

Container ships are backed up at docks, impeding exports from China and other nations. And labor shortages in the trucking industry are slowing deliveries domestically. This means many businesses have been unable to get the items they want for their customers. Supply chain experts are advising consumers to shop now, so businesses should be prepared to handle early shoppers.

What to do: Businesses should be advising their customers to take advantage of what’s available now. The line from Janis Joplin “get it while you can” sounds about right at this time. Businesses may not be able to meet customer needs later on.

Delivery Delays

Technically, there’s plenty of time for deliveries from the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS. For example, USPS’s deadline for USPS Retail Ground Service is December 15; FedEx lists its shipping deadline for holiday packages as late as Christmas week for many delivery services, which is very similar to last year. But weather and labor shortages could result in delays.

What to do: Advise customers about buying now so that items can be shipped and timely delivered.

Reduced Consumer Dollars

As prices at the gas pump and the supermarket rise, this leaves less spendable dollars for gifts. Prices are predicted to continue to climb. A Deloitte survey found that 68% of consumers expect higher prices this season.

What to do: Work on capturing consumer dollars now. Depending on what you sell, be sure to consider payment arrangements, such as layaway plans. Some large retailers, such as Burlington and Hallmark, offer such plans and you can too.

Competition

While it’s not new that small businesses have to compete with the big retailers – online and off – at holiday time to attract consumers and induce them to spend, it may be more difficult this year than ever because of the previously described factors.

What to do: Online sellers as well as retailers on Main Street need to launch their holiday marketing campaigns now, if they haven’t yet done so. Be authentic when engaging with your customers. A store can use “event shopping” to bring customers through their doors. Contests and giveaways are other options, and can be executed through social media platforms as well. Such activities take planning, so get on this right now. Check for free local advertising for these activities.

The pandemic has opened the hearts, minds and pocket books of consumers in support of local businesses. Use this to your advantage, including the “personal touch” that sets your business apart from what may be the rote transactional experiences of bigger competitors, national chains or the larger tech platforms.

Final Thought

If you thought the pandemic had a big impact on holiday spending last year, it may be minor compared with the factors at work today. Don’t delay. Put your holiday activities into overdrive now.

Barbara Weltman is a member of SBE Council’s advisory board, and has been a leading consultant for small businesses of every kind for over twenty years. She’s the founder of Big Ideas for Small Business® and has written numerous books on small business operations, including J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business, and The Rational Guide to Building Small Business Credit. Follow Barbara on Twitter @BigIdeas4SB.

 

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