The Last-Minute Holiday Prep Checklist for Retail

Nobody needs to tell you that the holiday season is the most important season for independent retailers.

We want to help make these holidays your most successful yet. Our goal is to give you a few tips to help you plan and execute the most efficient and profitable holiday season your business has ever seen.

Plan Your Promotions Now

The holidays are super close. Consider what most stores are doing? New product photos, collections, tons of complicated promotions, in-store offers. These are all good things but it’s also time consuming. How do you make the best use of your time during this busy season? You can stay on top of all of that if you start planning now. At the very least, spend 30 minutes planning 2-3 promotion ideas, which involves:

  • Think about what you want to discount: your most popular product? A special collection? A BOGO offer? Your entire catalog? Knowing what you’ll be promoting is a good first step.
  • What holidays are you going to run promotions for? Thanksgiving? Black Friday? Cyber Monday? Christmas? New Years? All of the above? Think about your products and your target customers. Which of those holidays resonate best with them?
  • Expert Tip #1: Use the surge in holiday traffic/sales to build up your email list or social following. Throw in a nice carrot (e.g. extra 5% off) if they sign up. Building your email list gives you more opportunities for sales after the holidays wind down.
  • Expert Tip #2: Consider collaborating with another merchant to run a giveaway or special promotion. They should be a company that targets the same market and sells products that go well alongside yours. That way you get to borrow each other’s audiences and bring more interesting value than if it was just you. A good place to start here is to look at your Instagram following for a good fit or join a Facebook group that has other store owners similar to you.
  • Subscribe to Email Groove, our free service for that sends you timely reminders and marketing advice leading up to holiday promotions.

Mark down your “must ship by” dates

Since a large portion of online shopping is done for buying gifts during the holidays, customers need to know when they need to order by so that it’s guaranteed to arrive in time for the big day.

This means that you need to calculate the total shipping turnaround for your store.

About how long does it take your team (or your dropshipper) to fulfill an order during busy weeks? How long is your standard shipping option (UPS or FedEx Ground can take up to two weeks for longer distances)?

Add those together and then walk backwards on the calendar from Thanksgiving and Christmas. This will tell you your “must ship by” dates, which you can make clear on your holiday promotions, not only as a way to build some urgency to increase conversions, but also as a way to create a positive experience for your customers, which contributes to higher customer retention a lifetime value.

Reevaluate your return policy during the holidays

We normally understand why independent retails have strict return policies; in fact, we recommend it. However, the holidays are a different time and should be treated differently.

Consider the gift receiver – they are excited about a dress but it doesn’t quite fit and they want to go exchange it. The store has a strict 7 day return policy and is told she can’t exchange it. The experience is ruined. She doesn’t like her gift and now she also doesn’t like your store.

This is where a business needs to evaluate the policy: The receiver did not get her new dress more than 7 days ago, even if the gift-giver made the purchase in late November. For independent retailers, this is an amazing marketing opportunity. Consider the returned dress the same as a gift card.

This is a customer that would not have otherwise visited your store and they now have the chance to spend their gift card in your space. Your staff has a new opportunity to upsell and increase your holiday revenue even more.

Encourage the post-holiday visit

Be creative in your promotions to get people back in your doors throughout the month of January. Even better, what can get the gift-receiver into your store; even if they are keeping their gift. Consider giving a gift card with purchases above $XX amount (look at your average invoice and add 20-30%) that can only be used the following year.

In the same way, you can also offer free gift cards with the purchase of a gift card of $XX amount (again, consider 20-30% more than your average gift card). Doing this will help increase your ticket size, bring existing customers back in your store, and hopefully bring in new customers as well.

Solve your technology problems now

Have a printer that’s been acting up? Do you sometimes have issues with your credit card device? Run through your technology and ensure that everything is working well.

As you know, an hour during the holidays is worth as much as a day in June. Take care of these issues now, not when you are losing precious money during the holiday season.

Get a backup option in place

Make sure you have a backup to continue transactions in the event something goes wrong. We recommend making two major purchases prior to the holidays:

  1. A network hotspot: you’ll want something to act as a backup internet, should your network go out. A cellular iPad will also do the job.
  2. An iPad credit card swiper: You can get these from your credit card processor. Should your network go out, your terminal won’t work but if your iPad has a network connection, we can get you online
  3. Bonus: If you are using Meraki Networks, we can attach a hotspot to your network. Should the internet go out, your network will automatically move to the hotspot and your system will see little to no disruption.

In a rush and need help with any of these options?

Reach out today and let’s talk about if we can help you with . Our small team are experts on marketing and technology for retail stores, and can assist you with any of these holiday priorities.

Talk to one of our retail experts →

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