Unlike most retailers, who have peak sales during the winter holidays, sales at Potomac River Running, a chain of 10 running specialty stores in Washington, DC and Virginia, are highest during the spring and summer.
But this year, coronavirus shutdowns have hit stores hard as fewer runners train for big races, fewer back-to-school sales and fewer people go shopping at all. Owner Ray Pugsley is more focused than usual on getting the most of the vacation.
“The holidays are big for us, but usually not as big as summer,” says Pugsley. “However, this year we want to try to cut our 2020 losses to some degree by beating our comps in the fourth quarter.”
In preparation, the company increased its online sales, conducted touchless transactions, introduced local delivery, created customer gift lists, and implemented a number of new security protocols in its stores.
Pugsley isn’t the only small business owner focused on getting the most out of the next few months. According to The Visa Back to Business Study – Holiday Edition, almost seven out of ten small businesses see the winter holiday season as a top opportunity for their business.
According to Deloitte, retail sales are expected to grow between 1% and 1.5% this year during the holidays and range from $ 1.147 trillion to $ 1.152 trillion between November and January.
That compares with a 4.1% growth in 2019 when sales were nearly $ 1.14 trillion.
Ray Pugsley, owner of Potomac River Running, outlines a strategy to increase online sales for the holiday season.
Potomac River is running
Small businesses were facing unprecedented challenges as early as 2020, and the holiday season seems to bring much of its own, amid a volatile economy and ongoing concerns about another wave of coronavirus infections.
This could cause problems for small businesses for which the holiday season is oversized as a revenue factor.
“It’s not to be overstated how important it is,” says Jeff Rosenblum, founder of digital marketing agency Questus. “In just a few days, many brands and small businesses can sell as much as the rest of the year combined.”
Even in a difficult environment, small businesses have the opportunity to increase their income during the holidays. According to the Visa study, 60 percent of American consumers plan to make the majority of their purchases from local retailers this year.
“All businesses right now should be thinking about digitally connecting with their customers, getting creative to get new customers, delighting customers, improving customer loyalty, and monitoring spending to save money,” says Jeff Jones, President and CEO of H&R Block.
Other things you should do:
1. Think digitally
With Americans spending much of their lives online in 2020, marketers who want to reach out to them will need to get online to meet them there. For retailers, that means they can sell online, where sales could increase 30% this year, according to Salesforce.
“The good news is that it can be as easy as a few clicks to get online if you’re not already there,” said Rich Rao, Facebook’s vice president of small business. “And you don’t have to do everything on the first day.”
When shipping products, be sure to let customers know the shipping deadline by Christmas – and consider adding some time for delays this year. In-house pick-up and processing of local roadside deliveries can further increase online sales. From May to August of this year, online shoppers spent 23% more on local pickup or delivery, according to Shopify.
Even non-retail businesses can get in the holiday mood online and update their website or emails with holiday news. This year especially, the holidays are a great time to get in touch and reach out to your most loyal customers.
“When it’s a company that doesn’t sell a product, the human touch can get you more aggressive,” says Jason Vandeboom, CEO of ActiveCampaign, a cloud software platform for small and medium-sized businesses that helps them socialize and Connect with customers. “Maybe it’s literally a single email or message sent to a channel they’re on. They just build customer loyalty over time.”
Susan Henner, owner of Henner Law Group in White Plains, New York, says she plans to make more Christmas cards and practically says thanks this year to keep costs down.
“We usually get a lot of expensive gifts for everyone, but we’re more budget conscious this year,” she says. “We took out a PPP loan and an SBA loan, and we’re doing fine with money. But I don’t want to blow it away and keep everyone busy. I was fortunate enough not to have to lay off anyone or cut salaries.”
2. Talk about security
In light of security concerns, companies that have face-to-face interactions are adopting new protocols to ensure that all employees and customers are safe and to notify customers. At Potomac River Running, this includes additional cleaning and distancing measures, as well as the ability to schedule an appointment for private purchases.
At Sweets by Cari, a bakery in Ossining, New York, owner Caridad DiMiceli has made invoicing and payment completely paperless.
“I’ve also changed all of my delivery options to contactless delivery and contactless pickup to ease the tension and anxiety about placing orders,” she says.
At Sweets by Cari, a bakery in Ossining, NY, owner Caridad DiMiceli has made invoicing and payment completely paperless.
3.Prepare for panning (again)
Many of the small businesses that have been successful in the past six months have successfully reorganized their business models to meet changing customer needs: yoga studios have all of their classes online; A dog retirement business became a mobile dog groomer. and a restaurant wholesaler started selling to consumers. Small businesses may need to re-optimize their business models this holiday season to meet the needs of their customers.
“It sounds clichéd, but this is the time to really listen to your customers,” said Tom Sullivan, vice president of small businesses for the US Chamber of Commerce. “During this pandemic, the small businesses that have focused on their value and how that value translates into a unique customer need have been thriving.”
This is an area where small businesses may have an advantage over their larger competitors. Because of their smaller size, they inherently have more flexibility to quickly adapt to a changing business environment.
“The way customers behave now will persist and will return to normal when businesses regain a foothold,” said Arpan Podduturi, product director for Shopify Retail. “For every retailer there is a permanent shift towards e-commerce and omnichannel.”
Those who make it over the next few months could emerge in an even stronger position once the pandemic subsides. Nearly 9 in 10 small business owners say they feel better prepared for the future now, and 79% say they feel more tech-savvy than ever, a Comcast survey found.
“Discovering all these new tools and all this creativity that you and your employees didn’t even know had is really a silver lining for some small businesses,” said Karen Kerrigan, president of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. “You innovate and discover new markets.”
4. Celebrate your workers
Holidays are usually a time when companies show appreciation for their employees, often with a Christmas party or a seasonal bonus. But this year, social distancing guidelines could make it impossible for organizations to throw a traditional party. This is the case at Henner’s law firm this year.
“Usually we’d go to a really nice place, a local restaurant in the area, and do business with them,” she says. “But I don’t want to be in a restaurant, and a lot of my employees don’t want to be in one either, and by December it will be too cold to sit outside.”
While Henner still expects to pay their employees a vacation bonus, many small businesses likely won’t be in the same position. There are other ways to show appreciation, such as B. an extra paid day off, a handwritten note or a cheap gift.
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Vera Oh, co-founder of vegan skincare line Glowoasis, usually flies employees to company dinners and karaoke parties in New York to celebrate the holidays. This year the company is moving the party to Zoom and looking for other ways to make the workers’ time special.
“We plan to send turkeys for Thanksgiving and UberEats coupons so they can order Christmas groceries to enjoy during the virtual Christmas party,” she says.
5. Don’t forget about self-care
It is easy for small business owners to worry so much about their business that they forget to take care of themselves or enjoy themselves during the vacation. Almost two-thirds of small business owners said they were stressed out due to the business effects of Covid-19, and 68% said they lost sleep as a result, according to the Comcast study.
Small business owners may not even be aware of the mental health impact of the pandemic, says Jill Johnson, CEO of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, a nonprofit management consultancy in Newark, New Jersey.
“Some people don’t realize the stress they’re working under or how it affects them,” says Johnson. “It’s especially important now to take some time to decompress. Take a day or two off your work day and go to work, where you can refresh and rejuvenate.”
6. Sit back in your small business role
Consumers are aware of the challenges all businesses are facing this year and many want to do their part to help. According to an AdTaxi survey, three in four consumers say they will make an effort to shop at small and local businesses this holiday season.
That’s good news for Pugsly, who says his vacation news will emphasize the difference it makes when consumers shop locally.
“We would like to point out that we really appreciate it when you shop with us,” he says. “We’re a local family and we’re in your schools and in your community. We’re all together. Please help small businesses if they want us to be nearby and in business in the future.”