Jane has prepared for this day all year: She set aside tax return money, she populated her Amazon wish list and she brought her ‘big’ purse. The moon is high and the wind crisp and uncomfortable.
Jane shift’s her weight and stares down the ungainly, blue-smocked store worker preparing to open the door. She peers left and then right, sizing up the competition. She checks her watch for the thirtieth time. Five. Four. Three. Two and One.
The nervous, braced smile of the seasonal store worker falters as the key turns. The worker has realized too late that there is no turning back, Pandora’s box-lid is inexorably linked to the door.
Jane throws an elbow into the woman standing to her right and offers a Croc to trip the lady to her left as she crashes headlong through the store entrance. The hapless, freckled face of the worker contorts in terror before being lost in the throng, swallowed whole by the mob. It is midnight, on the blackest, most ironic Friday of the year.
We are all painfully aware of Black Friday and have all heard one of the horror stories. It seems as soon as the bell tolls on Halloween we are bombarded by the ‘Holiday Shopping Season.’ Retail outlets do as much as 40% of their annual sales in the 29 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Little wonder so much effort is expended in bringing shoppers into the store.
What fewer people are aware of is Small Business Saturday, the day after the dust settles. Saturday, the 29th, is set aside to focus on local business and entrepreneurs.
Over the next several weeks we will explore some strategies and best practices for small businesses during the holiday season.
To get started American Express is offering free and nearly free promotional packages for use by small business owners as part of their “Shop Small” campaign. Visit www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small for more information. (You need not accept American Express to download free material)
Showcasing the shop local idea is very important but showcasing your products and services are even more important. Make sure you get your products in front of the customer in a timely manner.
“Feature and market a product or service every day or every week during the holidays. Think about focusing on high margin products or items your customers don’t know about. Companies in the food business use this strategy a lot,” explains Ivana Taylor at SmallBizTrends, “Think beer of the month, cheesecake of the month, or coffee of the month…”
Customer service and the ‘experience’ are the number one reason people stay local.
Rieva Lesonsky, CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, suggests, “Prep your employees. Customer service is a huge aspect of marketing for small brick-and-mortar retailers. You’re competing not only with huge ecommerce sites like Amazon, but also with big retailers who integrate their online and offline shopping experiences seamlessly.
“Your employees need to be on top of their game. Not only must they provide stellar, smiling service, but they also need to be in-store sales consultants with expertise about your products and the competition’s…to keep them in-store.”
Cooperate with friends and neighbors to pay business forward.
Lesonsky continues, “Is there a way you can partner with complementary stores or restaurants to cross-promote each other’s businesses? For example, a cosmetic store and a hair salon might develop a promotion that offers a time-limited discount off each other’s respective goods and services.
“A good place to get started with co-opetition is at your Chamber of Commerce or local business association. Bring up the concept to the other members and see what they think.”