Managing the Holiday Season: Tips for Small Businesses

(Feedsy Exclusive)

If you’re a small business owner, you might not be looking forward to the holiday season quite as much as the rest of us. Getting it right in the few weeks leading up to Christmas can be crucial to your business’ success.

Yet many business owners end up making mistakes after not planning and budgeting carefully enough. Here are a few tips for small business owners, to help you transform the holiday season from potential pitfall to great business opportunity.

Be prepared for the rush
If your business sells anything, it’s likely that you will experience increased demand in the weeks before Christmas. You need to anticipate this as accurately as possible so that you don’t under- or over-stock.
Have a careful look at your sales figures and take note of the items which have been selling well for the last few months. In addition, have a look at your figures from this time last year. The two combined are likely to give you a fairly accurate idea of the stock you need.
It’s also a good idea to take into account the effects that the current economic and political climates might be having on consumer behaviour.
If you sell goods online, make sure that your website can handle the increased traffic it is likely to receive. If you’re concerned, talk to your provider and see if you can increase your capacity for the holiday period.
Many businesses run special promotions for the holiday season. If this is something you’re planning to do, it’s important to have everything in place, including your marketing, well in advance.

Planning your budget
It’s vitally important to manage your cash flow properly at this time of year; otherwise you could find your business short of money in the New Year. Don’t forget, you need to budget for purchasing extra stock and possibly hiring temporary staff, as well as making sure you have enough cash to get you through a potentially quiet January.
Your systems and procedures have to be extremely efficient to make sure everything keeps running smoothly. Send your invoices out as soon as possible and start chasing them the day they become overdue. Tighten the terms if necessary to make sure they get paid on time, otherwise there is a high likelihood they won’t be paid until January, as your customers are also busy and need more cash at this time of year.
It’s also worth talking to your suppliers. Try to negotiate credit and “sale or return” arrangements. If they won’t agree, see if you can find more favourable terms with another supplier.

Staffing
If you think you are likely to be under-staffed in the run up to the holiday period, make sure you hire and train temporary staff in good time. Otherwise you and your existing team could end up working much longer hours, and you may not be able to meet demand.
If your business has any ongoing staff training needs, it’s a good idea to arrange training for January, as this is likely to be your quietest month.
Finally, make sure your business hours are listed on your website, so your customers are aware of when you are opening again after the holidays. That way you won’t miss out on any potential business. Have a happy holiday!

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