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Even though the holiday shopping season’s starting line is a bit blurry, many retailers still consider “Black Friday” (the day after Thanksgiving, or the fourth Friday in November) a good starting point.

In recent years, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has come to be known as “Small Business Saturday,”encouraging consumers to skip the larger retail chains and shop at small, local businesses.

Per The 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, 96% of consumers who reported shopping on Small Business Saturday said the day makes them want to Shop Small all year long, not just during the holiday season.

Even though some small business owners don’t believe they can compete with the larger stores that can offer deep discounts and scores of inventory—and they shouldn’t when it comes to price wars—there are still ways for them to capitalize on this very busy shopping time of the year.

Prepare Your Staff

Impress upon your staff the importance of these sales events for the store. First, make sure everyone knows that they’ll be needed on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. If an employee typically has Friday or Saturday off, check with him or her to determine if his or her availability might be different for these two days.

Make sure they are intimately familiar with whatever promotion or sale you’re going to run. If there are exclusions, make sure your staff knows. If there is a standard percentage off, consider giving them a pricing sheet that lists common price points and the subsequent savings. That way, if customers ask what the sale price is, your staff can quickly state it.

Lastly, if you can, provide a few amenities in the back room. Stock up on bottles of water, bring in snacks and consider having lunch delivered to the store for your staff. This will make coming in to work that day not as much of a hardship, and help employees to stay energized throughout their shifts.

Take Stock of Your Sales Equipment

If you only have one point of sale location in your store, consider setting up one or two other portable registers. You could rent them to save money. This includes portable point of sale options that can run on tablets, making it easier than ever to make your point of sale mobile.

Additionally, don’t forget the non-technical stuff. Do you have enough receipt tape? What about bath tissue for the break room? And shopping bags? Make sure you’re stocking up now on these essential items so you’re not caught unprepared on the big day. You can even set up your employees throughout the store to keep traffic ways clear and avoid the crush of a long queue.

Determine the Type of Sale, if any, That You Will Promote

As a small business, you can’t compete with the large chain stores and their deep discounts. You can gain sales, however, by opening earlier than normal on Black Friday and promoting unique items or special sales. Taken from a different view, however, you may decide that offering discounts will only hurt your bottom line, especially when considering your business’ fixed costs.

In other words, discounted prices may make Black Friday a losing proposition. Black Friday shoppers are notorious—and occasionally ruthless—when looking for deals. If you choose not to offer a discount, don’t expect the typical Black Friday shopper to patronize your store.

Black Friday is not a day for leisurely shopping and taking time to browse. It’s about getting in, getting a deal and getting out. So, unless you’re offering something truly special, don’t expect a huge influx of shoppers in those wee hours.

Update Your Website

Even if you don’t host an e-commerce storefront, make sure your website is updated with a few key holiday details:

  • Special hours: List your holiday hours, even if they don’t differ from your normal hours. Clearly defined hours means that there is no question in customers’ minds about when they can shop.
  • Special deals: If you are offering a discount for Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, make sure that information is front and center. Even without an e-commerce option, people will still be searching for deals, and having that information on your site gives them a better chance of finding you.

Stock Up on Inventory

If you decide to offer a discount or special sale, especially on a specific item, you might consider taking out a loan to make sure you have enough inventory. You also need to determine what you’ll do if you run out of the item (e.g. offer a raincheck or substitute), and determine how you’ll spread the word if you do run out. This is where social media can be your best friend. Use your Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram feeds to help spread the word of sell-outs to customers and prevent a lot of frustration.

Increase Your Advertising and Promotional Efforts

Use all of your social media channels to promote your special offers. You might also consider putting together a keyword or a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign that allows you to target specific keywords or terms. The only concern with the latter is that it will take some expertise, so if you’re not well-versed with PPCs, you might want to outsource it to a firm or specialist, which could make it cost-prohibitive.

Don’t forget traditional media for Black Friday either. It’s still the biggest day for circulars in most major newspapers. And while you may not be able to afford a full-color insert, even a black-and-white display ad placed in the right section will draw attention.

Determine What Signage You’ll Need and the Best Way to Display It.

Chances are you’re going to want special signage (both informative and attention-grabbing) for your windows or doorway, as well as on product displays and at the register. Keep the following in mind when designing or ordering signage:

  • Language is important. Avoid ambiguous language that can leave deals open to interpretation.
  • The fine print is key. If there are exclusions to certain promotions, including certain brands or types of merchandise, make sure that information is clearly displayed. If you hand out coupons or other discount cards, make sure that these exclusions are included in fine print as well.
  • Consistency is the order of the day. All of your messaging should be consistent. The fine print on one ad should be the same as it is on the coupon.

Keep Safety Top of Mind

Holiday shopping means more people in the store and more inventory on the floor, which can create a dangerous lack of navigable space. Make sure that you keep your aisles as clear as possible, giving special consideration to shoppers who may be in wheelchairs or other motorized carts.

Don’t stack boxes too high. Make sure your employees know not to leave box cutters or other implements on the sales floor, even if they are unboxing inventory at a furious pace. Have clearly defined queues, and consider having an employee on the floor that can direct people to the line as well as manage it.

These are all considerations you may not have during a regular day, but holiday shopping is completely different.

It is possible for small businesses and retailers to capitalize on the extra foot traffic and spending sprees that Black Friday and the holidays generate. Just take the time now to prepare so the season is a boon for your business, and not a bust.

Post Author: Lorrie Toillion, CFP®

Accounting Specialist, Tax Assistant, and Client On-Boarding Associate.