Holiday Sales Tips | Competing Against Big Box Retailers

The holiday season is officially upon us, which means shoppers scrambling to buy gifts for their loved ones — and sales opportunities galore for your small business! We understand as a small business it may seem daunting to compete against “big box” retailers. With proper planning, coordination, focus, and promotion, however, any entrepreneur can capitalize on the opportunity to increase year-end sales. Below are the top five strategies the Iowa Western SBDC recommends to help your business get the most out of this holiday season.

1) Plan Stock & Staff Accordingly Understanding both consumer demand and inventory needs during the holidays is crucial. The last thing you want as a small business owner is to run out of stock. Use industry research and historical sales data to plan strategically. Stock up on the season’s hottest gifts and trends, and don’t run out! It is also critical to staff employees accordingly. As a small retailer, focusing on customer experience is imperative. Customers want to feel important and value high-quality customer service, so having a sufficient number of staff on hand to answer their questions and address their needs is a must. Shoppers will remember their experiences at your store long after the snow melts away and the decorations come down, which you can convert to long-term sales for your business.

2) Deck Your Digital Halls The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to spruce up your website and social media presence. Take advantage of this time of year and create a lasting impression on customers. Update your social media accounts regularly; offer helpful holiday tips and shopping information; and incorporate holiday offers and promotions exclusive to social media followers in order to draw them into your store. Not only will these marketing efforts increase sales now, they’ll also create lasting brand loyalty even after the season ends.

3) Give Back to Customers… & Get Them in Your Store! During the holidays, more than any other time of the year, people are looking for deals, freebies, and ways to save money. To get customers in your door, consider offering special deals on certain items or packages, providing free gift wrapping services, conducting in-store demonstrations, or even simply putting a tray of cookies out for shoppers to eat while they browse. Offering small touches and “extras” such as these can boost sales for particular goods as well as sales overall. Even if you can’t compete on price, you can offer good deals through unique, value-adding “extras.”

4) Give Back to the Community Giving back to your local community creates goodwill for your company — and what better time to do so than during the season of giving! Donate your goods or services, contribute a percentage of holiday sales to a cause you support, serve as a collection point for food or toy drives, or volunteer your time to charitable causes. A little bit of philanthropic work goes a long way in creating positive P.R. for your small business. You can then highlight your charitable work in your marketing efforts, which will reflect positively on your business and, ultimately, boost sales.

5) Create An Experience & Offer What Others Can’t If you can’t compete on price, consider what you can offer better than big box retailers. Leverage your brick-and-mortar competitive advantages and create an experience for your customers. Offer additional value that can’t be found online or in larger chain stores. Just because you charge a bit more than larger retailers doesn’t mean you’ll lose customers — experience, atmosphere, and added services add value beyond the product itself and can help win customers’ business. Extended hours, hands-on customer service, special warranties, free gift wrapping, personal shoppers, and on-site demos all help offset the impact of customers comparing your prices with those of bigger retailers. Think about in-store activities that online and big box retailers can’t offer, and implement them in your own store to induce shoppers to visit and, more importantly, to buy.

These are just a few tips and tricks to get your small business in the holiday spirit and to increase sales, profits, and leads. Feel free to share your own advice in the comments below or contact us at (712) 325-3376 for small business assistance during the holiday season.

The Iowa Western Small Business Development Center is a free resource for small businesses and start-ups in Southwest Iowa. We serve seven counties – including Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby – and provide free counseling services to help businesses start, grow, and prosper.

(Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema / Flickr)

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Iowa Western Community College

2700 College Road

121 Ashley Hall (Park in Ashley Hall Visitor Parking)

Council Bluffs, Iowa 51503

712-325-3350

Sue Pitts - spitts@iwcc.edu

Michael Mitilier - mmitilier@iwcc.edu

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA). All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA