Small Business Survival Through the Holidays

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By Ralph Ross, SBA Kentucky District Director

Many locally-owned small retailers earn 25 – 50 percent of their total annual sales during the holiday shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The business decisions made during this important time of year can have direct impacts on cash flow for the coming year.

6 Common Practices Retailers Should AVOID During the Holiday Season:

1.Lack of inventory control. Inventory control is crucial for all small retailers, especially during the busy holiday season. Inventory equals profits, and knowing how much product to order, when to order it, and what items to order can make the difference between having cash in the bank, or aging inventory on the shelves.

2.Hiring the wrong employees for critical positions. There’s a cost to hiring the wrong people for key positions. Small firms tend to have less layers of management between the owner and employees. Consequently, new hires must be able to perform with less direct supervision, and be motivated to get the job done right the first time. Avoid this issue by writing a detailed job description, and training new employees on how you want them to represent your business.

3.Undercapitalization is a lump of coal no business wants or needs. Cash flow is the life blood of all small businesses. Cash flow allows a business to make payroll, pay suppliers and keep its doors open. Business owners can immediately increase cash flow by promptly collecting accounts receivable; not keeping too much cash tied up in unnecessary inventory; and eliminating unprofitable account relationships.

4.Not embracing online sales and social media. Recent U.S. Census Bureau reports show that more than $115 billion in e-commerce sales were made during the third quarter of 2017 — a 3.6% increase over the previous quarter. As more consumers make holiday purchases online, it’s imperative that small retailers develop a retail web presence. Leverage Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to promote one-day sales or plug special product lines and high-inventory merchandise.

5.Not delaying the employee office party and social events. It’s sales crunch time from Black Friday to Christmas Eve. Office parties can cause distractions at a time when the business needs to be especially productive. Consider moving the company party until after New Year’s Day and call it the annual thank-you event.

6.Innovation and creativity lost. Locally-owned small retailers beat their corporate competitors by providing outstanding, individualized customer service. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have pushed large retailers into flooding the market with loss-leader pricing on a wide array of products. Small retailers should take the offensive by selling creative and innovative products that can’t be found at the local mega mall. Create a unique customer experience that will draw shoppers to travel outside of their comfort zone and discover that out-of-the-ordinary shopping district with 10 trendy stores, not 100 traditional chain stores.

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