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10 Most Common Holiday Mistakes Retailers Commit

Skimping on staff and resisting returns are just two of the things small retailers do to undermine their own holiday sales.
November 13, 2012

This is a critical time of year for every retailer. For many small-business owners, November and December can represent 20-40 perecent of their annual sales. This adds up to a lot of pressure on the season.

Here are the 10 most common mistakes that holiday retailers make and what to do about it:

1. Not having a marketing plan for the holiday. Don’t rely on the “time of year” to bring customers in the door. Think about why they should come into the store right now. The marketing plan should include: What customer pain is being targeted this season? What is the demographic of the targeted customer who will have the money to solve this pain?

2. Drastically discounting prices early in the holiday season. This has changed since the Great Recession since most consumers now expect a discount all the time. Twenty percent off is now the “new full price”. Remember, the customer's “pain” is that they need to buy gifts this time of year. The right gift will be purchased even at a higher price. If discounting is done too early, it will drastically reduce the business’ overall profit. Remember that sales is vanity and profit is sanity!

3. Getting caught up in hysteria of Black Friday. Don’t open at 6 a.m. with door busters. Leave that to the big box stores. Instead, add special promotions that day like a bundling of items that raises value for the customer. Also, celebrate Small Business Saturday as a unique day to shop at independent businesses.

 4. Trying to compete with big box stores. As a small independent retailer, it is nearly impossible to compete on price or reach with the bigger stores. Instead, emphasize buying local and how it helps keep the community economically strong.  Do joint promotions with other local business owners. Emphasize local value over price.

 5. Being left short-staffed. Now is the time for a small business to shine. It may be the first time that a customer enters that retail establishment all year. Ensure that customer service is at its best by hiring additional experienced staff to handle the increase traffic.

 6. Ignoring employee needs for time off. All employees have their own personal needs for time off this time of year. Post a schedule early to ensure that they get the time they need and the business is not left short-staffed. Happy employees will make happier customers.

 7. Not being “findable” on the web or by mobile applications. This is the time of year that customers are shopping. The only way to get chosen as a place for them to purchase is to be searchable. Retailers need to ensure their brand is memorable. They must be listed in Google Places and Yahoo Local so they can be found. Don’t hesitate to get involved in the conversations about shopping and gift giving that are happening over social media.

8. Making returns difficult. No retailer wants to see their products come back to them. But, the first purchase this time of year can be the beginning of a relationship with a customer. Do not treat it as a one transaction deal. Make the return easy and use it as an opportunity to stay connected to the customer in the future.

 9. Depending on November and December as a “make or break” time of year. Retailers need to be actively growing and marketing their business throughout the year. Do not depend on the holiday season to make this year profitable. Always have a cash reserve in case December falls flat as a result of poor economic news or bad weather.

 10. Forgetting about January. After the holiday season is a perfect time of year to follow up with all the new customers you acquired in December and build a relationship with them for the future. Don’t wait until the next holiday season to contact them!

 Are you a retailer? What mistakes have you made and how did you remedy them?

Photo: Getty Images