Holiday Prepping as a Small Business with The Saddle Shoppe!
As a small business, preparing for the Holiday season cannot only be overwhelming but a challenge. Where do you start? How do you make the most of this time of year? How do you not drown in the sea of other businesses, sales, and products?
The truth is, there is no simple answer. And what might work for one, does not mean it will work for another. The beauty and the curse of owning your own business, is that it is 40% about your product/services, and 60% about your customer service.; your business is unique and special, because it is YOUR business.
That being said, I have been doing some extensive research, as well as gathering information from various other businesses, to help create a simplistic guide on how to prepare for the Holiday season. Take it for what it is: a helping hand, and not a one size fits all. Adapt the advice to fit you, and not the other way around! And if you have advice/tips to help others, be SURE to comment below. We are all about Community here, and embracing the holiday spirit of giving.
A couple weeks ago, I asked my followers on Instagram to way in on a variety of questions that I know I was curious about, especially as a new business. Below are the results from that research:
When do you start preparing for the Holiday season?
Most businesses recommended you start as soon as possible. Depending on how much custom work your business does, or how many unique items you are creating for a Holiday collection/service, may affect how early you should start.
Several leather working business, and silversmith businesses that specialize in custom work started opening up custom spots at the end of July. Their cutoff for holiday guarantee was October 1st. (Again this is average).
Clothing Boutiques often started preparing their stores for new inventory in late September to mid-October. But they were sourcing Holiday products for their stores months before that.
Photographers often stated prepping in mid-October, with promotion preparation and Holiday mini's.
How do you prepare for the Holiday Season?
So what were some of the ways businesses started to prepare for the Holiday Season? Below is a list of recommendations for new, and experienced businesses in various fields.
-Brainstorm discounts and ways to encourage customers to join your email list
-Purchasing shipping supplies and packaging supplies in bulk and early
-Having an on going list of Holiday product ideas from current and past years that you can reference
-Determining how many custom spots you can open up/holiday cut off dates
-Run sales of summer/fall inventory to clean out shop for Holiday goods
-Prepare Small Business Saturday/Black Friday deals and promotion
What advice to you have for other businesses preparing for the Holiday Season?
-Just breathe, it will all work out
-Support other small businesses when you are doing your own shoppinng
-Community over competition:share and support others when you can
-Set limits. You can't do everything and you can't please everyone. Be sure to take care of yourself first.
-If you can afford it, run sales, even small ones
-Use and abuse social media. It will be flooded, but keep posting! The right person will see it.
What I do at The Saddle Shoppe to Prepare?
Each year I try to expand my involvement in the Holiday shopping experience. As this will be my third year in operation, I am hoping, and preparing, for my best Holiday season yet!
This year I will be doing a HUGE sale during Small Business Saturday in November, but will not be participating in any other of the sale days. I have done that in the past, and it has always resulted in more stress than it was worth. I plan to run my sale for a few days, not just the one, but it will be the same sale each day.
Yearly planners are my biggest sellers around the Holidays. This year I have my Christmas guarantee deadline as December 5th. I expect to be able to offer them longer than that, but this allows me some grace, if I do not have time to do more. Building in your own boundaries is so important, especially around the holidays when customers get frantic. I also have been making a few extra planners each week, setting them aside, and stock piling them either for my sale in November, or for after the cutoff, if I need them!
New this year, I am going to be offering Holiday specific stationery. This will be an exclusive collection of stationery with a special design, and only available through the Holidays. This allows me to be more creative, and try to access more customers through the appeal of the Holiday season.
I preorder TONS of shipping supplies, starting yesterday. Shipping supplies often get in short demand during Christmas time, and either become more expensive, have longer lead times, or become impossible to find. I try to prevent some of that with preordering my necessary shipping supplies now.
Lastly, I remain extremely transparent with my customers during the Holidays. Let them know you do not control delays, shipping problems or losses, or slow lead times. You are human, and most customers will respect that. Be sure, if you have a deadline, or are running out of time to complete products or services, you are telling your customers. More information is always better than less!
So, What's Next?
Customers may get disappointed, and I always find that during the Holdays people are either especially nice, or especially impatient. The more information you can give them, the more their reaction is in their own hands. Do not take it personally--you are doing the best you can!
And always, always remember there are other businesses out there who are looking for a helping hand, the same way you are. In my opinion, there is nothing more wonderful and powerful than the way Small Businesses band together during the Holiday season--it's the real magic! I believe in you, and I hope you can pass that along to the next person who may need it!
If you have any advice, or questions that could prove helpful to other business, be sure to drop them in the comments!