If I have one message to send to small businesses about preparing for the holidays in 2021, it’s
don’t wait. I’m not just talking to you retailers—though you’re the ones I’m sending this
message to the loudest. Small businesses in every industry need to think through how they’ll
make the most of #Holidays2021.
Every year, the holidays are a critical time for small companies, but this year, the holidays are
going to be much more challenging. Why? This year, everything is going to take longer, be
harder to find, and there’ll be more competition for inventory, employees, customers. Even
something as simple as sending out greeting cards to your clients is going to be more
challenging this year.
Also, this year, thanks to Covid, it’s much harder to predict what the holiday season will be like.
Will shoppers and customers want to be out and about? If so, your brick-and-mortar store will
need more inventory, your salon will need more shampoo, your dry cleaners will finally get
some business. Or will Covid make everyone want to huddle indoors, in which case, your
ecommerce, shipping, and delivery capabilities will be critical, and your marketing more
important than ever.
What are the trends a small business can expect for the 2021 holiday season?
- Online shopping will be big. Covid has changed shopping habits for the foreseeable future.
- Inventory will be in short supply. Record backups at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long
Beach—which handle 40% of US imports—mean lots of goods will not be making it to your suppliers.
- Long lead times. No matter what you order, it’s going to take longer to arrive. Not only are shipping services overwhelmed, even domestic suppliers are having trouble getting enough staff and supplies to produce sufficient goods.
- Staff shortages. It’s already difficult to find employees. Expect it to only get harder.
- Customers and clients will be hard to reach. Will your customers still be working from home? Are they back in their office? Have they rented a vacation home? You can’t depend on reaching clients or customers at their old addresses.
- Customer service will be lacking. Lower your expectations about what kind of service you’ll be able to get from suppliers or distributors. They’re all short-staffed.
So how can you succeed in the holidays this year? You, as a small business owner, must be more pro-active than ever.
Here are nine tips for small business holiday success in 2021:
1. Order inventory now
Inventory is going to be hard to come by. So take your best guess now on inventory levels and be flexible in what you order. It may be difficult or impossible to re-stock your shelves once they’re bare.
2. Enable online ordering
If you don’t already have a way for customers to order from you online, it’s time to address that. The fastest way to set up an ecommerce solution is to use an online ecommerce service, like Shopify or Wix ecommerce. Some social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram also have tools to enable you to sell directly as well.
3. Update your customer contacts
If you’re sending anything to clients or customers—cards, gifts, even invoices—find out where to actually reach them. There’s a good chance they won’t be at their usual address.
4. Buy from American suppliers
Delays from overseas suppliers are going to be the norm, not the exception. American suppliers may be able to get more of what you need when you need it.
5. Accept credit cards for immediate payment
If you normally invoice your clients or customers to pay in 30 days, offer them the ability to pay with credit cards if they pay immediately. That will give you more money in the bank now.
6. Order your holiday cards and holiday gifts now
You’ll have few or no choices if you wait.
7. Hire extra staff now
If you know you’re going to need extra holiday staff, start looking now. Offer predictable work hours as well as higher pay to get a hiring advantage.
8. Update your website
When was the last time you looked at your website? Give it a refresh before going into the holiday season.
9. Market, market, market
Customers are going to be overwhelmed this holiday season—they’ll have fewer choices, will be strapped at the last minute, and will be searching for solutions. Stay visible to your customers and prospects. Be sure they see you—in social media, on search engines, in their email.
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2021
This article originally ran in USA Today on September 29, 2021