The holidays are just around the corner and consumers seem to start their shopping earlier each year, so what plan do you have in place to tackle the holiday rush? Is your retail business ready for the potential increase in shoppers? If you want to get ahead of the game this year, here are 6 things that can you can do to prepare your business for the busy season. Do an inventory review There is nothing worse than having dozens of customers clamoring for a particular item only to discover you’ve run out. So how do you prevent this scenario from happening? One of the first things you should do is utilize the data that you do have. Do you anticipate certain items being a hot commodity during the holiday rush? Take a look at the sales data for the previous year and see how many you sold. Did you run out? Did you have too many? Using this data can help make sure you have enough inventory for those popular items. Start building your email list NOW Putting together a robust email list of your most valuable customers can bring in a great deal of business during the holiday rush. If you’re a small business and have never done an email list, don’t worry – just start out small. It can be something as simple as a clipboard with a signup sheet at the checkout stand. When you ring up their purchases, ask if they’d like to be notified of any special deals or sales at your store. You might be surprised at how many people will happily sign up. Once you have a good list in place, make sure you don’t overwhelm them. Send out an email once every week or two updating them of any changes at your store and any upcoming sales. If you want to boost your sales on a particular day, send out a coupon that is good for that day only. There are so many ways to entice customers to return to your business through email. Try a few different things and see what works best for you. Have a business website First and foremost, you must have a website if you want to remain competitive. Maybe I’ve heard of your store but I’m not sure where it’s located. Will I be able to google your store name and find a website with an address and phone number? If consumers have no way of finding your store other than word of mouth or passing by, you will be missing out on so much potential revenue! Tap into e-commerce While it is critical that you have a functioning website, that’s not always enough. This year, e-commerce sales will be 10.7% of total holiday retail sales. While you shouldn’t expect to compete with the behemoths like Amazon, you should be aware of how they are changing the retail commerce space. If you’re not equipped to handle e-commerce, shipping, and everything else that comes with it, consider an alternative. Try putting some of your most popular items for sale on your website where consumers can purchase there, but pick up in-store. This helps them to avoid the busy lines that come with the holiday rush, while still receiving their favorite items in a speedy manner. Offer gift cards Gift cards are something that are frequently overlooked by small businesses. It’s true that they can feel expensive when finances are tight. At $1-2 a card, it may not feel like a good investment upfront. But when you look at the stats on gift cards, you may want to rethink your position. A whopping 93% of U.S. consumers purchase or receive a gift card annually. On average, 72% of gift card recipients will spend more than the value of the card and 90% will use it within the first 60 days. So, even though it may be an initial investment, your returns will almost certainly increase in the end. Not sold on physical gift cards? Try offering digital gift cards instead. This is especially appealing if you want to attract the younger demographic who would prefer keeping gift cards on their phones. Prepare your staff There are pros and cons to the holiday rush period. The definite advantage is an increase is customers, but the biggest disadvantage comes if you are not adequately prepared for this influx. No one likes waiting in long lines, and many will simply leave instead of waiting around. So how do you prevent this from happening? One of the best ways it to hire more staff. This doesn’t mean that you need to have that many staff year-round. But the concept of seasonal staff is not a new one. In fact, holiday hires make up 50% of the total new hires for the quarter. Which isn’t surprising when you realize that 20% of annual retail sales are generated during that holiday rush! So if necessary, don’t be afraid to look into hiring a few extra hands during the busy season. The biggest thing to remember is simply to have a plan of attack. Evaluate what has worked and what hasn’t in the past. Set goals for what you’d like to achieve during the holiday rush this year. And don’t be afraid to try new things. Who knows, maybe offering gifts cards or tapping into e-commerce or doing something else you’ve never tried may prove to be one of the best decisions you ever made for your business!