November  2003      Vol. 12, No. 10  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
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Holidays and Your Business — a Headache or a Joy?
We share some management and marketing advice from experts to help you keep jolly during the hectic holiday business season.


Does readying your business for the holidays bring on a migraine or a feeling of relaxed, positive anticipation? Holidays can be challenging, and they affect almost every business. Management tools will help increase your marketing volume and profitability in even the most challenging business climate.

The most important step is advance planning. Start with a review of past holiday business data. Carefully review your sales, profit and loss statements, and cash flows. Review your cost of goods and your borrowing needs. Perhaps an earlier purchase of holiday items will cut costs. Establish a line of credit during lull summer months, and pay off the loans during the more profitable holiday peak sales.

Look at your period of sales data to see when your sales volume peaked. Analyze the type of sales creating the most volume and profitability. Pricing is a key component to profitability, and realistic pricing decisions come from knowing costs.

Having more accurate business data on hand makes holiday business preparations much easier and effective. What if you’re new in business or haven’t had holiday data specific enough in the past? Analyze the information you need and start now to collect it.

Holiday Business Tips
In a competitive business climate you must look for your comparative advantage. Small businesses, whether retail, wholesale, or service, usually have a comparative advantage in providing high quality, individualized, or personalized service. Well conceived marketing moves will help.

Have a Holiday Sale Every Month. There are holidays every month, so no need to invent one. In fact, consumers have come to expect special sales during the holidays. Invite loyal customers for a special early showing of new holiday offerings and a “special customer” discount, and now you stand out as the place to shop.

Send Customers a Holiday Card. Not at Christmas, when customers already have a huge stack and when every other business is sending them. Why not send one instead on Valentines Day – a “We Love Our Customers” card with a personal note (one of the many reasons why a small business needs a customer data file).

Gifts. Put your firm’s products in a special holiday gift basket with enough variety to appeal to a wide customer base. Promote selling gift certificates to customers. This is especially attractive to indecisive shoppers or shoppers pressed for time.

Get a January Jump. Often the best volume sales month of the year, analyze product lines that will move best after the Christmas holiday, and prepare a customer mailing list for January mailing.

Deliver on Time. If you’re mailing customer purchases, don’t lose customers by cutting corners on your mailing costs. Planning for timely delivery is a must. Delivering gifts late is simply not acceptable.

Kids Shopping Day. As most parents know, kids love to shop, especially for family members or a special someone. Statistics vary, but estimates are as high as 15 billion dollars worth of annual sales where youth control the spending decision. They also have indirect influence on hundreds of millions of dollars. There’s a reason why grocery stores put “sugar puff” cereals at children’s eye levels in grocery stores.

Husbands or Wives Day. Make it easy for husbands. Promote wives coming in for a special showing and to register their wishes ahead of time, and then casually show the husband the gifts the wife really wants. Be ready for another sale when the wife ends up in your store buying for her husband. (Oh, by the way, while you’re getting your husband’s gift, did you notice our special sale on this blouse?) One, of course that was on her wish list that hubby didn’t buy.

Service Business Specials. Yes, continue to hand out the calendars, because many customers like them. But also consider whether a special holiday price discount on parts or labor for your service would be more valuable in turning people into loyal repeat customers. Remember, you need to stand out in a positive way from the crowd of competitors.

Personalize Your Product. It might not work for everybody, but studies show it can boost sales up to 20 percent.

REMEMBER, careful advance holiday business planning and marketing promotion can make the holiday a lot more fun and profitable.

References: Ron Zemke and Tom Connelian, ; David Bachelor, ; tips reprinted in 

 Contact: Phil Menke, with questions or comments.
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