How To Plan A Profitable
Small Town Christmas (Part I)

by Tom Egelhoff

Sorry to bring it up but that time of year is here again. Time to get ready for a booming holiday season. How do I know it will be booking? Because I, not the consumer, or the economy or the media, have control over the kind of Christmas sales figures I want to achieve.

The mistake most businesses make is that they just buy some extra stock, advertise a little more, open the doors and cross their fingers. I would much rather control what happens in my business. In this article I'll give you a few ideas to help you do that.

You can't begin to achieve a profitable holiday season unless you define what that means to you. Do you want a 10% increase over your normal sales figures? 20%? 50%? You can't plan unless you know how much business you would like to do. Take a page from Charles Dickens and start by looking at Christmas past.

Look At Christmas Past

What were your sales last year? Which days were your best days? If you don't know those figures start keeping track of them this year. How many weekends did you have last year? In 2003 there were 26 shopping days from the day after Thanksgivings until Christmas Eve and only four Fridays. This year there are 29 shopping days and five Fridays because of the leap year, which will add three more shopping days profits to your coffers.

And it doesn't stop there. Again, because of the leap year, Christmas is on a Saturday, which will give shoppers a full shopping (translation: planning) week before Christmas and a full week for after Christmas sales to further enhance your bottom line before the end of the year. As you can see there are already some positive things to plan for.

Here are six suggestions for the next six weeks to help bring in more holiday business.

1. Pay attention to TV and discount stores. Wal-Mart and others are already starting to stock holiday fare. Look at what they are buying. You don't want the same things in your business at higher prices. Stock some similar items that are better quality and more profitable. You're not a discount store the rest of the year; don't act like one at Christmas.

2. Start training your employees now, not later. Get them aquatinted with the products you are bringing in. What are the benefits of each item? They not only need to know those things but what items can be packaged together. You should never sell a suit without sox, shirts, ties, tie tacks, shoes, etc.

3. Start planting subtle seeds now that will grow into profits later. Create displays of potential gift items in conspicuous places in your store. Don't use blatant signage that the holidays are coming just let customers subconsciously file these ideas away for later.

4. Create shopping lists for your customers in categories. For example, "Gifts for Dad $10-$50." Who would buy their Dad a $10.00 gift? Most shoppers will want to see all the items on your suggested list and probably buy something middle to higher value. Remember the hardest part of Christmas shopping is coming up with what to buy for each person on his or her list.

Make it easy for them to do that in your store. I would even publish them in the newspaper so people can cut them out and bring them in. And please make sure all employees know each item on each list cold.

5. Do you know the demographics of your neighborhood? Type your zip code into This will give you a general idea of how many people in your zip code are married, under 30, 30-45, 45-60, and over 60. It will also give you an idea of their incomes. You may be surprised at the average income in your zip code.

6. Don't forget about co-op advertising from your suppliers. Start asking now so you can get ads designed and approved before you have to run them. Also ask sales reps about in-store demonstrations of products and service they offer. Most are on commission and the more you sell the better it is for them so make them work a little.

As you can see there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to holiday success. But I think that you will have to agree that you have more control than you think about the profits that are possible with the right planning and knowledge. Next month I'll go into more things you can do to increase sales, as the holidays get closer.

See: "How To Plan A Profitable Small Town Christmas" Part II

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