8 steps to prepare your small business for the holidays

In this 6-minute read:

  • Determine holiday hours well in advance
  • Adjust online listings
  • Resolve staffing issues and time off
  • Order inventory and supplies
  • Decorate your store and website
  • Streamline your POS and checkout processes
  • Take advantage of holiday marketing techniques
  • Collect customer info for loyalty marketing

The holidays are crazy busy for local businesses (along with everyone else!). But small businesses have it super-rough because they often don’t have the extra staffing or resources needed to take full advantage of the retail frenzy.

Here are 8 steps to get your small business ready for the end-of-year shopping season and come out ahead throughout the new year.

Get smarter about your customers and their impact on your business with a simple CRM specifically built for busy small businesses: Womply CRM. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

1. Determine your holiday hours, update your signage and online listings accordingly

The first thing you need to do is figure out your holiday schedule and hours of operation well in advance. We’re talking September/October if possible. 

If you’re planning on extending your hours, make sure you put up the new signage and post them on your website, Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, and all your other online listings.

If, on the other hand, you’re planning to cut some hours or close your doors for certain holidays to allow yourself or your employees to spend time with family, be sure to let customers know well in advance so you don’t disappoint them.

small business holiday hours

2. Plan ahead for staff time off, hire temp holiday workers if needed

Another thing ideally done by October is resolving any staffing issues or time-off conflicts. Everyone wants to take time off during the holidays, but it’s also crunch time for local businesses who need every hand on deck. 

If you’re a local business owner, you likely don’t have a large pool of backup employees to take the place of your regulars. You might consider offering key employees bonuses or time-and-a-half for working key holiday shifts.

If you are unable to fill slots using your regular staff, consider hiring temporary workers. Customers will be a lot happier (and leave you better reviews) if they are able to complete their purchases efficiently and quickly. 

small business holidays christmas

The extra expense of hiring extra help is frequently justified by the increase in purchases and revenue during the holidays.

3. Order any extra supplies and inventory you might need

Many small businesses do the majority of their yearly sales between September and January. Make sure you have the inventory on hand to cash in. After all, you can’t sell it if you don’t have it!

If you have a good small business software platform, you can examine last year’s holiday revenue trends and plan more accurately for what you’ll need for this year. This also helps prevent over-buying and ending up with stock rooms full of merchandise that takes months for you to sell.

Does your shop offer gift wrapping? Be sure to order wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, tape, gift bags, etc. If you haven’t offered gift wrapping before, consider it. It can be a huge draw for customers.

4. Decorate your store (and website) for the holidays

You know how it looks when every house on a street has holiday lights but one? Your store looks the same way when you don’t decorate. So be sure to order up a good supply of holiday decorations along with your inventory.

Whether you’re firmly in the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa camp or prefer the more generic “holidays” theme, there are tons of options for you.

small business holidays

While it’s great to get into the spirit of the holidays, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the reason you are enticing people into your store is to purchase, not to admire your holiday decor.

We’ve been to stores whose aisles and shelves were so overwhelmingly jammed with holiday bling that we’ve had a hard time telling what’s for sale and what’s for show, let alone navigating a crowded shop without knocking anything fragile over.

Another thing to be aware of is heavy perfumes, scented candles, and those horrible fake-cinnamon-scented pinecones can choke many potential (even allergic!) customers and drive them away from your doors, so be considerate.

tangled holiday lights small business

Despite these potential pitfalls, most people have favorable responses to the (natural) scents of fresh-baked cookies, pine needles, and/or warm spices like allspice, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Don’t forget to add holiday graphics and appropriate messaging to your website and social channels! (And set reminders so you don’t forget to update them quickly after the new year.)

5. Take part in Small Business Saturday 

Small Business Saturday is a yearly event that takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and is a great opportunity for you to network with other local businesses and take advantage of the “shop small” movement.

American Express offers a useful resource to help you make customized artwork to show your support for Small Business Saturday and entice local shoppers to your door. Click here for your free templates and ideas you can share in your store and online!

6. Streamline your point-of-sale and checkout processes

This hectic time is a great opportunity for you to reassess your POS platforms and processes, and make sure you stand out by making the holiday shopping experience smoother and faster… not the other way around.

You might consider upgrading to a faster, more modern POS system, and/or offer customers more options for how they wish to pay. 

For example, if you have the space and the staff available, consider dedicating one register to cash-only transactions, and others to card or digital transactions so people know what to expect.

small business POS holiday card

This can streamline the checkout process and leave customers with a positive impression, which can result in greater customer loyalty, better online reviews, and improved local SEO.

7. Create holiday sales and marketing campaigns

Everyone loves a bargain, and nothing brings customers to your door like a good old-fashioned holiday sale.

Due to the increases in foot traffic, local businesses can often generate greater revenue from smaller transactions, since there are many more transactions than average.

Of course, cost/benefit ratio is key here, but if you can market a 10% or 20% off sale with physical signage in your store, banners outside, and digital blasts out to all your email lists and social media followers, you can really generate some business.

Consider offering a free gift with any purchase, or free gift wrapping, or any other perk or benefit you can think of that makes sense for your clientele.

small business holiday gift wrapping

Of course, all this increase in traffic will only be temporary unless you really take advantage of the true value of repeat business by gathering customer contact info, which brings us to our next point.

8. Use a small business CRM to build loyalty and return business

Repeat customers spend 300% more, according to this data. But you can’t get all these new customers back in your door to spend with you if you don’t know who they are.

It’s vitally important to do everything possible to get customers’ contact info. 

Don’t feel weird about asking. Studies show 86% of customers say they actually want promotional emails from businesses they like.

small business POS holidays checkout

Add an email field to your checkout processes, or if you want to go old-school, ask people to write them down on a clipboard or insert a business card into a bowl for a weekly prize.

Ideally, though, you should be using a small-business CRM that adds customer contact info, transaction history, and other key data, and keeps it updated with every transaction. If you want to learn more about Womply’s “pre-populated” CRM, Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!


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