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Halfway to Holiday Shopping: 3 Ways Business Can Prepare Now

June 25 has come and gone, which means the summer has just begun and Christmas is less than 6 months away. It also means that small business owners should begin planning for the holiday season.

One cannot underestimate the importance of holiday shopping for retailers. According to a December 2023 survey from American Express, the holiday season is critical for any small businesses in terms of year-long profitability.

The AMEX Small Business Trendex survey found that two in three small businesses characterize the holidays as being important to their overall financial situation. According to the survey, 71% said “increased sales” was their primary goal, while 44% saw the holiday shopping season as an opportunity to reach new customers.

“The final months of the year are especially critical to ensure small businesses meet their revenue goals for the full-year,” said Anna Marrs, group president, Global Commercial Services and Credit & Fraud Risk at American Express.

Given the importance of the holiday shopping season for small businesses, developing a holiday strategy now — well in advance of December — can help to maximize sales and profits at the year’s end.

1. Identify key dates, promotions, and special events

The holiday shopping season seems to begin earlier and earlier. Often, stores transform from Halloween to Holiday Season on Nov. 1. And sometimes even sooner. In 2024, Black Friday falls on Nov. 29, and Small Business Saturday happens on Nov. 30. Thus, the “official holiday shopping season” will be shorter this year. Waiting until that weekend to launch holiday promotions may be too late.

Plan your promotions. What kind of discounts are you willing to offer on Black Friday? Will you have have special offers on Small Business Saturday? If eCommerce is important to your revenues, have something special planned for Cyber Monday, which falls this year on Monday, Dec. 1.

Cyber Monday originated in 2005 when, the online arm of the National Retail Federation (NRF), devised it as a way to encourage consumers to shop online. Clearly, the Monday after Thanksgiving has boomed as an important shopping day for any business that conducts online retailing. Since its inception almost two decades ago, Cyber Monday has grown and become the biggest day for online shopping sales every year.

2. Begin ordering holiday season inventory now

Ordering holiday inventory requires careful planning and timing to ensure you have enough stock to meet demand without overstocking. Analyze data from previous holiday seasons to identify trends and peak shopping periods. Then determine which products were most popular and how quickly they sold out. Account for the time it takes for suppliers to process and deliver orders. If you are ordering goods made in China or other countries, factor in shipping times and allow extra time for potential delays.

The months of July and August are when small business owners should start planning and finalize inventory needs – especially for items with long-lead-times for delivery. For items with standard delivery times, orders can be placed in September or even as late as October. However, if you know what you need during the summer, don’t risk being shut out by waiting to long. You don’t want to miss out from obtaining profitable items from your vendors.

Ordering holiday inventory takes planning and capital. Sometimes you can negotiate a better deal on goods if you order far in advance and pay upfront. If you need inventory financing in order to purchase holiday inventory, you can get the funding from a variety of sources, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

3. Leverage social media

Social media helps create brand awareness and visibility among a wide range audiences. Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter) have millions of active users that visit the platforms daily. Creating engaging and entertaining content can enable your brand to expand its reach and, hopefully its sales, when the content is shared by users. In total, more than 75% of companies plan holiday specific marketing campaigns during the holidays by using Facebook (82%), Instagram (63%), and YouTube (48%).

In addition to viral sharing, social media platforms offer comparatively affordable advertising options compared to traditional media, such as TV, radio, and print. Indeed, small businesses can run targeted ads with relatively small budgets.

While Facebook is a great way to reach Baby Boomers and Gen X these days, Instagram and TikTok are among the most important ways to reach younger consumers, who tend to spend hours on these platforms. Spend time watching TikTok videos and try to observe popular trends, hashtags, challenges, and influencers.

The key to being successful on TikTok is to create short, entertaining, and visually appealing videos. Bonus points for effective use of humor! Additionally, business owners can create partnerships with influences who align with their brand values. Influencers can help promote your products or services authentically, but they often come at a steep price. Factor this in your budgeting.

Additionally, business owners can leverage TikTok ads that will appear in users' feeds. For instance, companies can sponsor a branded hashtag challenge to encourage user participation and build brand awareness. Just like any other form of paid media, utilize analytics tools to track the performance of your content. Pay attention to metrics such as views, likes, shares, and comments. Then use these insights to refine your content strategy and focus on what resonates most with your audience.

Remember that you can cross promote content on different social media platforms. Thus, if you create a compelling video on TikTok, you can also share it on Facebook or X to expand its reach to a different audience.

It may take you time to get familiar with these platforms and understand them better before endeavoring to promote your holiday offerings on them. You can also embed the videos on your company website and in your marketing emails, as well.

One of the keys to running a successful business is advance planning. Start planning for the holiday season now: what you will offer, how much to order, inventory costs and where and how to promote your offerings during the peak sales period of the year.

Connect with an Old National Small Business Banker for more insights to help your business grow.

This article was written by Rohit Arora from Forbes and was legally licensed through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to

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