Tips from the Entrepreneurs: How to Prepare for the Holidays

The Holiday season is almost upon and businesses are hard at work preparing for their busiest time of year. The coming weeks are key to boosting profits and minimizing Holiday stress. And, if you haven’t started preparing yet, there’s still time to turn things around and make this a very Happy Holidays.

Now is the time to start strategically prepping your operations for increased demand. In a recent article, we shared our own tips on How to Prepare Your Small Business for the Holiday Sales Period. Now, we want to turn the spotlight over to entrepreneurs from our community. We asked several small business owners how they prepare for the Holiday season, and what advice they’d give to business owners during their own preparation.

Nina and Rose, Happy Cat Feline Essentials

How do you prepare for the Holiday rush each year?

I think for any retail business this year the most important thing is making sure you have all of your stock as early as possible! With so many uncertainties due to disruptions to the supply chain now is the time to make sure you are well stocked and prepared. Unsure if you need to order more cat puzzles? YOU PROBABLY DO! Get that stock while you can.

Going into the holiday months, we try to make sure we have a plan in place to be adequately staffed through the busy times. Employees may have holiday plans so make sure you get that schedule set as soon as possible. Be realistic about everyone’s limits (including your own!) and don’t be afraid to hire extra staff if needed. We have never regretted getting more help when we needed it. Remember that the holidays can be a stressful time for just about everyone, so check in with your employees and partners to make sure that everyone knows their voices are being heard and their needs are being met. The well-being of our team is our number one priority. The last year and a half has meant many people haven’t seen their families very much so remember that during these chaotic times our “work families” are often filling in for the real thing. Treat everyone with care and respect!

What advice would you give to other businesses preparing for the Holidays?

Find some Holiday playlists that don’t include the same old songs that we’ve all heard a million times. Get creative about what you consider holiday music. Your employees will thank you!

 

Irina and Maria, Scentrique

Scentrique

What steps does your business take to prepare for the Holiday season each year?Planning early is the key to a successful holiday season. We start our holiday planning in July both for marketing activities and to make sure we have enough stock and packing supplies to meet the demand. This became even more important this year with the logistical and production delays affecting all retailers.What advice would you give to other businesses on preparing for the end of year rush?The pandemic made it hard to predict demand so preparing for the end of year became a gamble. Researching the competition and industry in general might help to understand the lay of the land and make necessary adjustments to your strategy. Also, doing something out of the ordinary and memorable might help you to stand out.

Natasha Thom, Love VanCity Gift Boxes

What steps does your business take to prepare for the Holidays each year?

We prepare for the Holidays in several ways:

  • Love Vancity Gift Boxes uses a central calendar with key dates, like big shopping events and our shipping cut-offs for different regions. We then work back and match up the dates with our marketing plans and customer communications, factoring in some wiggle room for each deadline.
  • Get extra hands on deck! Whether it’s for packing orders or keeping an eye on the customer inbox, Love Vancity Gift Boxes will increase resources and have a backup plan for helping meet the holiday deadlines. Falling behind and needing to send expedited parcels at the last minute can be expensive and risky!
  • Communication is key this time of year! During these busy times, it’s likely that most businesses will have challenges that delay orders or cause mix-ups – after all, we’re all human! At Love Vancity Gift Boxes, we always say the best approach is to keep people updated with a quick email to let them know everything is in hand.

What advice would you give to other businesses on preparing for the end-of-year rush?

  • Get ahead with your own holiday shopping. If you’re a business that likes to send holiday gifts to clients and customers, but you also have a busy season in front of you, get a head start and take care of your gift list ASAP! We offer corporate gift boxes and the earlier we start working with clients, the more options we have to customize boxes. before our artisan vendors get too busy to take new orders. Most importantly, it’ll be one less thing to worry about when you’re up to your eyes in product and orders.
  • Take a moment to enjoy the rush! Even when you’ve got a mountain of orders to process, find ways to lighten the mood and have some fun. Put on the festive tunes, order in some treats for the team, and make a jolly time of it – knowing that you’ll get to rest after the rush.

 

Ryan Popoff, Popov Leather

What steps does your business take to prepare for the Holiday season each year?

We sit down and plan for Q4 at the start of each year. We forecast what our sales will be (based off previous years’ growth) and plan our production around that number. Because this year is going to be such a huge year for us, we hired new staff and started our Q4 manufacturing in July. We’re on pace to have enough leather goods for all our customers and should be able to ship until the very last minute (Xmas Canada Post deadlines). Q4 is our most profitable time of year and we took it very seriously this year!

What advice would you give to other businesses about preparing for the Holidays?

Start early and use data from previous years. If you’re seeing an upward trend in sales, take that into account with your forecasting. If you’re in a “giftable” niche like we are, Q4 should be your primary focus almost all year round. Also! Make sure you have enough shipping supplies (boxes, labels, filler, etc), because everyone else will be running out at the same time as you.

Frazer B, Vancouver Island in a Box

What steps does your business take to prepare for the Holiday season each year?
Beyond planning advertising campaigns and rolling out holiday-specific product selections, we put a big emphasis on optimizing the customer experience to encourage a smooth transaction with minimal barriers. This includes website optimization, prioritizing customer service, and realizing customer needs come in various forms: being flexible by offering everything from future-dated orders to last minute delivery options allows us to cater to a wider audience.
What advice would you give to other businesses on preparing for the end of year rush?
Give yourself enough time to analyze what worked and what didn’t during previous years. Shipping times, for example, can be unpredictable, and there’s always going to be last minute shoppers. Adjusting shipping strategies to offer more local and last minute delivery options is an example of what we are focusing on this year, based on previous years learnings, to maximize our success.

Nicole McLaren, Raven Reads

What steps does your business take to prepare for the Holiday season each year?

Our biggest focus is bringing on new or holiday-specific products and ensuring that our website and ecommerce platform is set up for this. We also look to our cashflow and budget to see what is reasonable and to make sure that we have the extra capital on hand to fund any additional changes we need to make, or any extra inventory we need to purchase.

What advice would you give to other businesses about preparing for the Holidays?

Start early. With the global disruption to supply chains and movement of goods through the ports, there is a large backlog in accessing raw materials and packaging. Looking long term, look to diversify your supplier list. Evaluate whether paying more for a domestic option could help reduce disruptions to your supply chain and your production schedules. Additionally, consider looking to third-party manufacturing and logistics options. Third-parties often stock pile things such as raw materials and packaging and can potentially offer you access to your desired materials, save you production manpower and free up your time to focus on things such as marketing and customer service.

Prepare for the Holidays with Small Business BC

Is your business ready to make the most of the busy Holiday sales period? At Small Business BC, we’ve got a range of live business webinarsfree resource downloads, and one-on-one business advice to help optimize every aspect of your small business.