Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's a Small Biz Christmas

It's tough enough being a small retailer, but the holiday season is it's own animal. On one hand it can be the biggest money maker, on the other it's when you've really got to set yourself apart from everyone else. And this year the competition is going to be even stiffer.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that consumer spending holiday shopping will be up only 1.9 percent over last year. That represents the lowest increase in planned consumer holiday spending since the survey on the subject began in 2002. Further the Survey reveals that U.S. consumers will spend an average $832.36 on holiday shopping this year.

More importantly, consumers say one factor will play the biggest role in buying decisions this year: price. Forty percent of shoppers say that sales or promotions will be the largest factor in determining where to shop. The average person this year will spend $466.13 on gifts for family; $94.52 on friends; $26.70 on co-workers; and $43.50 on other gifts. Spending is expected to be particularly weak among young adults, with 18- to 24-year-olds planning to spend $50 less on gifts than a year ago.

Okay don't get all glum. It's Halloween and hopefully you've already begun making plans for the big season. Still there are some ideas that will help you compete against the big box stores.

One thing that you've got that they don't is customer service. So don't skimp in this area this year. Put yourself in your customers shoes and know what they want.
  1. Customers still want to feel the warm cozy experience of the holidays. Make your shop a destination. Serve hot cider on chilly weekends. Offer shopper tag-a-longs a comfortable spot in which to wait.
  2. Everyone is on a tighter budget. Group items by price and display the price such as; an under $20 gift table, an under $50 gift table and so on. In other words, make it easy on your customers to find gifts that fit within their budget.
  3. Designate an employee as a personal shopper. One site suggests calling this person a Budget Wizard. " him or her your Budget Wizard -- what their budget is, what type of gifts they need and for whom. Then, let your Budget Wizard find items in your store that fit the budget and the general concept of what the customer wants to buy."
  4. Create unique gift displays that show how to put more than one item together for a great gift.
  5. Pamper last minute shoppers by staying open longer and helping them make decisions.

Manage your costs while meeting customer needs.

  • Shift hours to meet customer demand. You can maintain overhead balance by opening later on weekdays and staying open later at night.
  • Invite charity groups to provide gift wrapping services for donations. They'll supply the materials and customers service without any cost of time or money to you.

Step up the creative marketing

  • Work with your chamber of commerce and other local retailers to create holiday events
  • Polish your website
  • Use social marketing sites such as Twitter and MySpace to communicate with customers. Be sure to tell your customers how to find you by posting info at your shop.
  • Encourage customers to write reviews on sites like Yelp and CitySearch.
  • Setup collaborative displays with other retailers in their shops or other places that customers frequent like coffee shops, credit unions, etc.

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