How to prepare your business for the holidays

How to prepare your business for the holidays

The holidays are a profitable time for many companies, but this busy season can also be challenging for you and your employees. Fortunately, you can overcome obstacles and make the shopping season more successful by preparing well before it starts. In this article, we discuss how to get your business ready for the holidays while providing excellent service, increasing sales, and keeping your employees happy.

When is the holiday shopping season?

The holiday season officially starts on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. It's one of the busiest shopping days of the year, with Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday happening right afterward. Small Business Saturday encourages people to shop at small businesses, and Cyber Monday is a big day for online sales. People often choose this time of year to get ahead on their holiday shopping. 

Many shoppers also look for presents and holiday decorations when summer ends, around the same time as the back-to-school shopping season. Many people shop for Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations, winter clothing, and other items before Black Friday. This means it's a good idea to start preparing for the holiday season as soon as possible. Consider the challenges you faced last year and how you can avoid or overcome them this season. Then, create a list of tasks and decide which are the highest priority.

"Hiring some extra help to handle big crowds makes providing excellent service for customers, processing sales transactions, stocking inventory, and keeping your business looking great easier." 

Avoid a huge holiday rush

Long wait times often annoy customers, and big crowds can stress employees. Attracting a big crowd on Black Friday is great, but having too many people visit in one day makes shopping less pleasant for customers and employees. 

Along with Black Friday sales, offer promotions earlier in the year. That way, you can keep everyone from shopping at your business at once and attract customers looking to avoid the Black Friday rush. You can also make sure that your most popular items stay in stock and prevent lost sales due to items selling out or customers who are tired of waiting for service.

Hire seasonal workers

Hiring some extra help to handle big crowds makes providing excellent service for customers, processing sales transactions, stocking inventory, and keeping your business looking great easier. Over half a million people look for extra work during the holidays. Many individuals want some additional cash to pay for gifts and family gatherings, and they're happy to take a temporary job. 

Start the hiring process and train employees before the holiday rush begins so you can schedule plenty of people for every shift. Hiring seasonal employees is also a great way to find permanent help. At the end of the holiday season, you can ask the best performers if they want to stay.

Minimize stress

High levels of stress during the holidays can lead to burnout, low productivity, and poor morale. You can help employees deal with the holiday rush by:

  • Offering flexible scheduling to let team members enjoy the holidays
  • Posting schedules a week or two in advance so people can let you know if they can't work at a certain time
  • Encouraging people to ask for help when they need it and making sure that they know how to call for backup during the busiest times
  • Ensuring adequate staffing so employees can take breaks and time off
  • Letting people step away for a few minutes without consequences if they feel overwhelmed or need to use the restroom or drink some water
  • Providing free drinks and snacks that people can access anytime
  • Thanking employees for their hard work 
  • Offering the best performers holiday bonuses or awards to show your company's appreciation and improve motivation

Finding ways to relieve your own stress is also important. Let people know that they shouldn't contact you about work outside business hours unless there's an emergency, and try to relax during your days off. If you feel overwhelmed, think about hiring an additional member of management or promoting an employee.

Adjust your hours if necessary

Being available when customers shop most helps you avoid missed sales. If people are waiting outside when you open, or the store is still busy before closing, consider extending your holiday hours. Ask your employees if they're willing to work earlier or later to ensure that you have the needed staff. You can return to regular hours when the holiday season ends and customer traffic decreases. 

Stock additional inventory

Analyze last year's sales and order more of the most popular items. Running out of in-demand merchandise decreases sales and can lead to a poor customer experience. It's also stressful for the employees who have to tell people that the item they want isn't available. 

Offer alternatives to in-store shopping

Accepting orders over the phone or online helps keep the number of shoppers visiting your store manageable without reducing sales or profits. It also lets people shop at your business anytime, from anywhere. You can provide curbside pickup or delivery and consider offering exclusive promotions for phone or online orders. For example, you may give anyone who spends over $100 online a 10% discount.

Improve your company's website 

More people may visit your organization's website and social media pages during the holidays. People use these resources to learn more about your products, check your opening hours, and search for current sales and promotions. Ensure that the information is up to date, and assess each page from the customer's perspective. Sites should be easy to navigate on a smartphone or a computer. 

You can improve search engine optimization by adding content and keywords that potential customers search for often. For example, a toy store could add a blog post about the best Christmas gifts for kids and mention some of the products it sells. 

Plan holiday marketing

Use data about which customers responded last year to plan your holiday marketing. Consider current trends and which marketing channels your customers pay attention to most. Paying for ad campaigns on social media, posting videos and photos of popular gifts, and running sales and promotions can attract many people. You can also use direct mail, email, or traditional newspaper, radio, or TV advertising. After deciding which marketing methods will likely be most effective, design some content and create a timeline for launching campaigns. 

Establish clear vacation policies

The holiday season is a popular time for vacations, and many people take Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other times during the holidays off to spend time with family members. However, some individuals have to work so that you can keep your store open during the holidays. If you don't have a holiday vacation policy, establish one as soon as possible, and communicate it to all team members. Some businesses grant requests for time off on a first-come, first-served basis, while others consider seniority or performance. 

You'll need to say no to some vacation requests, and having a clear policy helps people who don't get the days off they want to avoid hurt feelings or resentment. You can also reward individuals who work on holidays with perks such as discounts or gift cards. Make sure that you comply with local laws about overtime and holiday pay.

A successful holiday season is essential for many businesses. The holidays have some of the best opportunities for sales, and preparing for them is important. Starting your holiday preparation early can reduce stress for you and your employees while improving your business profits.

Learn more about preparing your business for the holidays:

Hiring holiday workers is an essential part of holiday preparation for many businesses.

Avoiding common hiring mistakes can help you find skilled, friendly holiday workers.

Buying gifts for employees during the holidays is an excellent way of improving morale.

 Show employees that you understand their time is valuable by offering flexible schedules.

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