It seems that major chain stores start advertising and stocking for the holidays earlier every year, and while there are plenty of articles and news outlets that complain, very few actually look at the reasons why. The truth is that preparing for the holiday season early can help a small business increase their profits and save money.
It used to be that most retail-based businesses wouldn’t start to think about the holidays until early November. This gave them thirty days to order what they thought their customers would want and receive it before or slightly after Thanksgiving. Of course, holiday shopping was very limited, and most consumers would spend money on a few small items and they would often wait for the week before Christmas to start shopping.
Today, of course, the retail landscape is very different. A typical consumer will spend about $700 on holiday shopping. That means the potential to spend thousands of dollars on the holidays for a single family. Of course, there are numerous businesses competing for that money, today. Consumers usually have hundreds of choices within a few miles of their homes, and millions of choices online.
The manufacturing and marketing schedule of most major companies extends months in advance. That means that most major factories schedule their holiday shipments as early as late spring. For small businesses, that means that they need to place orders as early as possible to make sure that they have access to the products their customers will want. This means paying attention to what the expected trends will be at least two seasons in advance, and making some judgment calls as to their expected budgets.
Of course, ordering so far in advance will mean that you’ll probably need to take out a short term loan. This will let you place advanced orders and pay for them before your period of greatest sales. An AFN loan can help considerably. Keep in mind that this will give you the short-term cash you need to place orders, and it can be paid back after the holiday season.
After you place the orders, of course, there is the possibility that items will arrive early. Rather than pay for storage, it might make more sense to put out the new merchandise as soon as it arrives. This is especially true for big ticket items that consumers will want to try out and save up money for as well as anything that can be added onto or expanded. While sales may not be particularly robust in late summer or early fall, displays of these products will help to increase sales during the holidays and they will allow you to gauge the demand for similar products.
In the case of smaller ticket items, an early display can increase customer interest in the product and draw new customers into your store. This is especially true for products that are forecast to be “must-have” items during the holiday season. In fact, many retailers have found success by ordering large quantities of the most popular items, then selling them ahead of the holidays to early-birds and people who want to re-sell the items during the holidays.