Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest shopping days of the year, kicking off the holiday shopping season in the United States and around the globe. As a merchant you have to be prepared or you will miss out on a substantial opportunity. Obviously, sellers of “gift” items such as electronics and toys can expect a huge boost in sales but so can nearly every other retailer due to the spillover effect of so many consumers being in the shopping mindset. Therefore, no matter what kind of goods you sell you need to be ready for the festive -- and sometimes frantic -- shopping season.
The term “Black Friday” goes back at least as far as the 1960s. Although its true origin is not completely known it is popularly said that it is the day when retailers finally realize a yearly profit going from “in the red” to “in the black.” Wherever the name comes from it has come to be a monumental day for retailers and one where consumers expect deep discounts. Its sibling Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday, was invented in 2005 by the National Retail Federation’s division, Shop.org, to promote online shopping and is the online equivalent to Black Friday. Now in 2018, Cyber Monday may very well have overtaken Black Friday in sheer volume of sales. The entire four-day stretch between them brings in billions of dollars to retailers and you should be prepared to take part in that.
The right stuff
Obviously, if you want to make a lot of sales, you’ll need the inventory to sell. Getting well-stocked in all your usual best-selling goods is a necessity. Depending on your typical inventory, you may want to acquire special stock as well. Gift items like toys, electronics, specialty and luxury personal care products, and jewelry are obvious candidates. Some research into what the trendiest and most sought-after items will go a long way. There is always a new toy, or apparel line or celebrity-endorsed brand that consumers just have to have. Getting these hot items on your shelves can make all the difference.
Seasonal items such as holiday-themed food, clothes and decorations also will be selling quite well. Don’t forget gift wrapping accessories: wrapping paper, boxes, bags and labels. In addition to the holiday-themed items, there are other ordinary products with seasonal uptick during the winter. If it’s appropriate for your store, put forward winter staples like chapstick, lozenges, and cough & cold remedies. Winter clothing like wool-knit hats, scarves and gloves are sought by shoppers as gifts and for their own use.
It can’t be emphasized enough that you need a good supply of appropriate merchandise but beyond that there are more things to do to make sure you are prepared for the influx of shoppers. You need to make a good first impression on customers. No one wants to go into a messy store or bother reading ugly and confusing online listings.
If you have a physical store, keep the shelves clear of dust and the floors clean of dirt. That last point may be hard depending on the weather but it’s worth the effort. Get your merchandise organized and easy for shoppers to find what they’re looking for. You don’t want to miss a sale because a customer missed the product they sought. While you’re organizing your goods, it might be a good time to put into storage or liquidate any leftover goods from previous seasons. Get the fall displays down and put away the sunscreen; it’s winter now! Organization is good for online sellers, too. You want to be able to quickly fulfill your orders without having to search all over your warehouse or storage space for products.
If you sell online, review your online listings. Edit the listing titles and descriptions for errors of any kind: misspelling, grammar mistakes or even factual errors. Make sure the products images in your listings are large, clear and accurate. And make sure all of your available items are listed!
These tips are applicable to any time of the year, of course, but can have an especially big impact on your bottom line during this busy season.
Taking care of business
Another aspect of getting ready for the shopping season is to have all the necessary resources to deal with increased traffic, whether it’s foot traffic through your store or web traffic online. Be sure to stock up on all the consumable materials you need to do business, things like cash register paper, price tags and discount stickers. You’ll need bags, boxes and tissue paper for wrapping up delicate items. If you do mail-order or online selling, make sure you have all of the shipping supplies you need: shipping boxes, bubble-wrap and other packing material, tape, mailing labels, etc. If you offer a gift-wrapping service be sure to have plenty of wrapping paper and tape on hand. Extra cleaning supplies may also be in order, particularly in physical stores where you’ll have lots of customers coming through and possibly dragging in the weather along with them.
Both physical and online sellers may want to hire extra help for the uptick in business during the holiday season. If you do hire additional help, take the time to give them thorough and proper training; don’t just throw them to the wolves! You may be busy and they may only be temporary employees, but there isn’t much point in hiring help that isn’t that, well, helpful. Don’t expect them to know your business and how it operates even if their job seems simple to you. Training is made easier if the new employees are given very specific and focused tasks. You may also need to purchase extra non-consumable items for employee use: scissors, price-tag guns and box openers are just a few. Having extras employees won’t help if they don’t have the necessary equipment for doing their job because there isn’t enough to go around.
Get the message out
The coming season may be a frenzy of shopping but you still need to do work to get your customers. You need to compete with all the other merchants out there who are clamoring for shoppers’ attention. Plan out your promotion strategy carefully and tailor it to your business. Do you want to just get shoppers in the door with a few deep discounts and hope they buy more? Should you just cut prices on everything across the board or just on select categories or products? The answer to these questions lie in the specifics of your business.
But whatever you decide you need to let shoppers know. Physical stores should get signage for their promotions, advertise in local publications, and perhaps do local flyer and mailing campaigns. Online sellers may want to increase their budget for pay-per-click advertising and email campaigns. Those who run their own websites should highlight their sales with sticky banners and multiple calls to action, the digital equivalent of increased signage.
Bring it all together
It's easy to get lost in the stress and hectic atmosphere but keep your head. Go into this holiday shopping season with a plan. Set out in advance your goals and what you need to do to achieve them. Ultimately you know your business and you've got to decide the best path forward to success. But I hope that the above tips give you some idea on how to approach preparing your business for what should be a very profitable close of the year.