Be Ready for Another Short Holiday Shopping Season

christmas-234105_640While spring may be the time when “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” fall is when the concerns of many small business owners turn to the holiday shopping season.

Here’s a roundup to help you put Holiday Shopping 2014 into perspective and get positioned for success.

Shopping season

I recently retweeted a graphic that had a picture of Will Farrell in the movie “Elf” jumping up and down and it said there were only15 Fridays left until Christmas, which, by the way falls on a Thursday this year. There are fewer than 15 Fridays left now.

Flashback time: Remember Holiday Shopping 2013 when the number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas could be counted on one hand? Okay, I exaggerate, but it was a shortened shopping season last year.

Well, I’m here to tell you that retailers have one whole day more this year. In other words: it’s another short shopping season.

Perhaps this explains why Costco started selling Christmas paper and other holiday supplies back in July. Remember that a lot of small businesses pick up supplies from Costco, so the warehouse retailer probably had its B2B business in mind when it started shelving red and green items in July.

Shoppers’ mood

The other variable to consider when trying to forecast and prepare for the holiday shopping season is the mood of the consuming public. Consumer sentiment seems to have been quite variable throughout the year. However, there wasn’t any time when buyers were ecstatic about their finances.

If the two extremes are boom and bust, we seem to be stuck somewhere in the middle with little indication of where we’re headed next.

However, no matter what our mood is, there will be a holiday shopping season, so small businesses need to be ready. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, recently shared an important piece of information with CNBC’s Krystina Gustafson.

Beemer stressed the importance of getting customers through the door on Black Friday. It’s not just about lowering prices to make sales on the day after Thanksgiving, he explained. The stores shoppers visit on Black Friday are also the stores they tend to return to throughout the shopping season.

Improve your odds

According to America’s Research Group, when customers shop a store’s Black Friday sale, there’s a 70 percent chance they will buy there two to three more times during the season. However, when they skip a store on Black Friday, there’s a 30 percent chance they’ll never hit it during the Christmas season.

Black Friday sales are a relationship builder as much as a way to get throngs through the door on that special day.

With a short shopping season, it’s easy to see that those two-to-three additional visits are extremely valuable and could be the difference between a good and bad year for retailers.

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