While many of my friends are hanging on to the last few days of summer, I’ve been face-down in holiday strategy and planning. For many of my marketing firm’s small-business retail clients, the holiday selling season is critical to their 2014 revenue goals. They’re dreaming of a green Christmas, not just a white one.
“Holiday sales account for 80 percent of our revenue,” said Carrie Huitt Reuben, president of Organicality, a Cary-based online retailer that sells organic and sustainable apparel. “I have a pop-up shop three times a year. The one I have in late November is important because it kicks off our holiday sales season.”
Reuben attributes her retail success to having a strategy for inventory and packaging, along with a customer-focused team.
“Let go of employees who are not excelling because they can drag down the performance of other employees and can create a negative customer experience,” she said.
Reuben starts planning her holiday sales strategy in January and does her sourcing and buying for fall and winter in February – way in advance of the holiday season.
To prepare for the holiday shopping season, Reuben said owners should have a communication plan and timeline that includes promotions and special events.
“Understand product ordering lead times and fulfillment, because that will impact your holiday timeline,” she said.
Kesha Dozier, owner of The Chocolate Boutique, said she has learned the hard way about holiday timelines.
When one of Dozier’s suppliers ran out of stock due to a surge of early sales, she panicked.
“I ran out of coconut oil, and then peanut butter was on back order. It felt like the world was coming to an end,” she said.
The Chocolate Boutique opened its first store 4-1/2 years ago in Raleigh’s Lafayette Village. Its second location at Park West Village in Morrisville opened about a year and a half ago.
Since holiday sales account for about 31 percent of the company’s annual revenue, Dozier begins her planning in July.
Like Reuben, Dozier says a communication plan is essential to holiday preparation.
“Complete your holiday marketing signage, promotional materials and advertising plans well in advance,” Dozier said. “The season moves quickly. It’s unlikely that you’ll have time to revamp ideas in between Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
She also suggests making website improvements that will maximize online ordering, along with adding staff to handle the increase in store traffic and training existing staff on new products, including one that has become a celebrity favorite.
“Comedian Steve Harvey loves our milk chocolate salted nut clusters,” she said.
To keep history from repeating itself, Dozier now stays on top of popular products, like Harvey’s favorite.
Olalah Njenga is the CEO of YellowWood Group, a Raleigh-based marketing strategy and management firm.