Retailers: Make Small Business Saturday Last Beyond the Holiday Season
Not everyone loves Black Friday. There’s a healthy cohort of holiday shoppers who prefer to patronize boutiques, neighborhood businesses, and independently owned stores and restaurants over major retailers. Small Business Saturday was created to attract them to your business on the heels of Black Friday. Launched in 2010 by American Express to encourage support for small and local retailers the day after the frenzy, Small Business Saturday is gaining momentum and becoming an annual tradition for many. You should take advantage of it, too.
To get the most out of Small Business Saturday, think of it as the kickoff to the entire holiday season and a chance to showcase your wares and set your business apart as unique and different from the large corporate operations. Prepare and promote, both in the front and back of the store, so that you’re equipped to make and keep new customers all year long.
Holiday shoppers are coming to town: Draw them to your store with promotions
Get the word out on your social media platforms that you are participating in Small Business Saturday, and encourage the community to #ShopSmall and #ShopLocal. Use the #SmallBusinessSaturday and #SmallBizSat hashtags on all your posts. If they are available, share statistics and figures that show how supporting neighborhood stores benefits the local economy and creates jobs. Make holiday shoppers feel virtuous about choosing your establishment over the large corporations — and then reward that virtue.
People love freebies and gifts with purchase. Consider a low-cost or high-inventory item and offer it for free with a minimum purchase (perhaps $50 or $100). Giveaways bearing your store name and logo, like mugs, reusable bags, and pens or other gadgets, do double-duty as gift and advertisement. Or simply enhance the shopping experience with complimentary coffee, hot chocolate, and light refreshments. Give customers a compelling reason to stop by and spend money.
You can also give them a compelling reason to come back again before the end of the year. Offer customers coupons that have specific redemption dates later in the season. Invite them back to an exclusive shopping event with live music or carolers and samplings of adult beverages. Make the small business shopping experience palpably better than the fluorescent-lighted chaos of Walmart and Target.
If your store is located near other retailers, why not collaborate and promote together? Shops and restaurants can pair up with reciprocal coupons and discounts. Be creative but savvy; choose co-promotional partners wisely.
Cybercriminals: They see you when you’re sleeping
You’re not the only one who works harder during the holidays. Cyberthieves get busy behind the scenes, too, and they love to target smaller businesses like yours. They are clever at using seasonally themed ruses to deceive you into handing over access to sensitive information and bank accounts. There are a few critical things you should do to protect against them.
- Keep your business records backed up securely in a location separate from your network. Ransomware is malware that encrypts data and renders it unusable; the cyberthief then demands a high-dollar ransom to unencrypt the data and return it to you. Newer variants of ransomware can target backup data if it is not physically segmented from the network.
- Be very wary of clicking on links in emails. Malicious links are a prime source of malware.
- Do not reuse passwords. Hackers are targeting passwords and will populate them across multiple platforms once they have stolen them.
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all cloud platforms. If your passwords are stolen, they can be used to access your cloud systems. MFA makes it much more difficult to use a stolen password.
- Consider cyber liability insurance. Carriers are getting much better with their offerings in this area.
- Consider a pre-established relationship with a cyber-incident response firm and an attorney that specializes in cybercrime. In a breach, time is often of the essence, and having these resources on standby can help you recover more quickly.
Sales tax: Make a list and check it twice
Do you sell merchandise in other states online or via catalog or mail order? The Wayfair ruling obligates remote sellers to collect sales tax on sales to states where they have exceeded state thresholds. Prior to the busy holiday sales season, review sales volume in each state to determine where you may have already exceeded or be close to exceeding thresholds. If you are on track to exceed the threshold with your fourth quarter sales, consider registering to collect sales tax before the end of the year so your business is not exposed to liabilities for uncollected sales tax.
It may be smart to automate or outsource your sales tax compliance procedures. Make sure you’re collecting sales tax at the correct local sales tax rate based on the customer’s address.
Be good to your employees, for goodness’ sake
The holiday season can be hard on your people. Long hours, cranky consumers, and “Feliz Navidad” on repeat will wear down even the most cheerful employees. Good help is hard to find, so be sure to take care of them.
- Order in pizza and keep them going with holiday sustenance like cookies and fudge in the breakroom.
- Create a fun work environment. Let them wear ugly Christmas sweaters and elf hats or reindeer antlers for a little levity on the job.
- Share behind-the-scenes photos on your social media platforms. Recognize them by name and congratulate them for their hard work. Customers love to see real faces, and employees appreciate the recognition.
- If sales are especially good, pay them a bonus.
- Plan a holiday party for everyone in January, once business slows down.
How we can help
CLA’s retail-focused professionals know how important the holiday shopping season is to your business, but we can offer strategies that help keep you competitive year-round. We’re immersed in the industry and deeply understand your challenges and opportunities. Our broad array of capabilities in operations, finance, and consulting can help you run your retail business with holistic and savvy insight.