When the holiday season comes around, all businesses seem to struggle to keep up with the increased demand for products and services. Whether a business has to hire new workers for the season or more products must be stocked to ensure extra demands are met, it can be a tough time for employees and owners alike. This holds true especially for small and medium-sized businesses: there is never enough time or money, it seems!
Because it's already mid-October, we at Zoek thought we'd share some tips to ensure that you're adequately prepared for the seasonal demands that come with the holidays.
A necessary investment: labor.
If you're already stretched thin in the labor department, the last thing you want to think about is budgeting in more time and money for increased labor. And let's be honest—it's not really a fun prospect. Many owners of small or medium-sized businesses already have to keep a careful eye on things to ensure that the company remains in the black. While holidays are always a great time to spread the news about seasonal sales or promotions, they also come with increased store traffic, order forms, and impatient customers who need their products ASAP! If you can't help everyone who comes through your doors during the busiest shopping season of the year, you might find yourself receiving some nasty reviews.
It's because of this that it is absolutely necessary to consider hiring seasonal help. Be honest with yourself: how much assistance do you think you'll need? Don't let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you can handle it all on your own. Whether you need to hire someone to help you groom some more dogs, handle more tedious paperwork, or serve more hungry customers, it's worth it to approach the problem of needing additional labor realistically and in a practical manner.
Prepare for the seasonal demands in the best way for your needs.
No matter how you choose to approach the holiday rush, you're going to find that you need some extra help somewhere. That much is a given.
However, beyond that, preparing for an increase in business is a personal decision. Many people say that they prepare months ahead of time, while others try to jump on the best opportunities as they arise. It's up to you how you choose to prepare. Some ways you might want to consider include:
For online businesses: Website and Server Stability
Ensure your site is easily accessible—easy to navigate; if there is a shop, that your stock is listed accurately and that everything works smoothly, etc.
Ensure servers can handle increased traffic. Talk to your webmaster or hosting service if you have any concerns.
Ensure sales and promotions are clearly visible on site. If you have a checkout code, discount coupon, etc, then make it prominent so that no visitors miss out.
For storefronts (and online businesses too!): Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Prepare fliers to place around areas your customers frequently visit (i.e., if you run a preschool, place fliers near a children's clothing store or daycare center).
Schedule Facebook, Twitter, or Google posts to let your customers know about upcoming events.
Create contests online—i.e., “Share this photo for a chance at receiving 50% off your next order!”
Participate in community events designed to promote local businesses.
Stock up and cover your bases!
We've already talked about how the holidays bring a greater demand for your products and services. So it should probably be obvious by now that you're going to need to stock up ahead of time if you want to anticipate the needs of your customers.
That being said, there are also a few other things to consider when getting geared up for holiday sales:
If you have a storefront, do you have room to store all your extra stock?
If you work from home, where are you storing your stock?
Is your stock insured?
If your stock is stored in an outbuilding, is it protected from harsh winter weather?
If you must ship products, do you have a system in place to easily get orders filled?
If you provide services, such as construction or dog walking, are you equipped to handle your job if harsh weather conditions arise? What are your rules for dealing with this?
How will you manage gifts? For example, wrapping, shipping, gift receipts, gift cards? Will you accept returns?
Will you be open over the holidays? How can you make sure customers are aware of your schedule ahead of time?
Do you have a way for customers to get a hold of you with holiday-specific questions and concerns? Have you briefed your employees or seasonal workers on any special accommodations you're making over the holidays?
These are just a few things worth considering for the holidays. It's a terrible time to be unprepared, or, even worse, to take a large financial hit because of some minor oversight that you could have avoided with a bit of careful planning. Take the time now to stock up and make sure your bases are all covered before the real seasonal rush begins!
In the coming weeks and months, we hope you see a lot of success at your business. The holidays are a great time of year—for family and friends, and for those of us who choose to serve the public through retail and skilled services as well. Season's greetings from the team at Zoek!