In my years as a handmade jewelry and crafts seller, both online and in person, I have experienced several holiday seasons. Some were very good, and some were very bad. I came to realize that the poor holiday seasons were due mostly to my lack of planning, rather than the economy or external factors. Seeing as retailers are now in full swing gearing up for the holidays, I thought it would be an opportune time to share what I have learned about preparing for the holiday season. By following these tips you should be able to experience a much smoother and less stressful holiday season.
The number one thing you can do to derail your holiday season is to underestimate the amount of inventory you need. Of course, you don’t want to have a lot of excess laying around after the holiday season is over, but many people are looking for sale and clearance items well into January, so chances are you will be able to sell almost everything you have. Keep the following things in mind:
- Overestimate the number of people that will be shopping with you.
- Stock more of the traditionally popular items, as well as items that are in demand.
- Stock your inventory in an organized fashion so it is easy to restock if need be.
- If you engage in e-commerce, make sure you have inventory to cover online sales as well as any in-person or store sales.
Predict Customer Questions
You can help to ensure that the holiday season goes smoothly by predicting the questions your customers might have. During the slower months of the year, your customers have likely asked questions about certain items in your store. This will be multiplied during the holiday season. Try these tips:
- Write down the questions that you are most frequently asked and have answers ready for them. This will ensure your customers receive the information they need in a reasonable amount of time.
- Predict additional questions your customers will have and have answers ready.
- Keep in mind that during the holidays people are shopping for others more than themselves, which can pose many questions. Having flyers or information sheets, or even signs and groups of products, that indicate who the products would be good for can be very helpful. For instance, bath and body gifts might have a sign that says “Perfect for Mom”.
Have Shipping and Packaging Procedures in Place
Whether you sell online or in store, packaging is extremely important. Whether packaging is intricate gift wrapping services, or a bag to put items in, you need to make sure that you have enough packaging materials to last you the season. If you sell online, it’s also important to stock up on shipping items. The last thing you need in the middle of the holiday season is to run out of boxes, packaging, bags, or shipping items. Don’t forget incidentals like tape, markers, and labels. Also, make sure you stock up on receipt tape and the like. If you offer gift wrap, have a station set up so you can do it as efficiently as possible and get people in and out the door and on their way.
Offer Package Deals
One of the best ways to improve profitability is to offer deals, but not just any deal. You want to make sure that you’re thinking like a customer when it comes to holiday sales. Your customers are looking to make an impact with their gift; they want it to be well-received and something to feel proud of. The best way to do that? Bundle! Customers love bundles because they can get several gifts for a relatively low price, which makes them look good to the recipient and makes them feel fiscally responsible, as well. Bundling is the best way to increase profitability and help your customers out, as well. If you can offer bundles that are already gift-wrapped, all the better.
You want your customers to be able to get in and out and on their way with as little hassle as possible. But you want to accomplish this without undue stress on you as the shop owner, as well. The easiest way to do this is to think like a customer. Walk through the sales process, from shopping to checkout, and try to streamline it as much as possible. The things I mentioned above will help you in this, particularly having enough inventory and placing signs with gift recipient ideas. But you should also think about counter space, where the line will be, or if you sell online, how your packaging and shipping space will be set up for ultimate efficiency. Write out, in order, the steps a typical customer will take – what the sales process looks like from their point of view. Then line up your checkout and packaging process the same way. This should help keep things very streamlined, which increases profitability for you and decreases stress for your customers.
The holidays are a great time of year, but they can also be stressful. Your preparation should focus on reducing stress for the customer and reducing time for you. That’s the perfect combination. Be knowledgeable about your products and be ready to answer questions. Be proactive, as well; if someone looks confused, ask them if you can help them find a gift for someone. Solution-based planning will contribute greatly towards a smooth and successful holiday season!