Arkansas and Missouri are home to hundreds of thousands of small businesses—about 500,000 and 250,000 apiece to be precise. And now is the time of year for small businesses of all kinds to begin gearing up for the holidays, as well as the end of the year. That’s because the upcoming season is one of the most important and lucrative times of year for small businesses—it’s a time to expand your customer base, engage your loyal customers, and give your annual revenues an end-of-year boost. If you count your store, restaurant, or company among thousands of local establishments, you probably have already taken some time to consider what steps you need to take to get ready for this year’s holiday season.
But having a successful holiday season depends on a lot of factors, from the presentation of your store or restaurant to the service that your customers receive. Despite inflation, holiday spending is predicted to increase between 3.5% and 4.6% this year. In this post, we’ll discuss some ways to prepare your small business in Northwest Arkansas or Southwest Missouri for the holidays, from timeless advice that can help you year after year, to specific tips for how to cope with current market conditions. Keep reading for ideas on how you can get yours ready!
1. Be Prepared to Accept Various Types of Payments
According to the World Economic Forum, 55% of Americans never or rarely use cash for purchases, and the more money an individual has, the less likely they are to use cash. If you are still a cash-only business, chances are you are losing out on a significant portion of your potential sales by not accepting card and digital payments. This includes credit cards, debit cards, and contactless payments and digital wallets like Samsung or Apple Pay. Accepting these kinds of payments isn’t hard, but it does require a point of sales system, and a relationship with a financial institution to process your payments. Most banks, including CS Bank, offer Merchant Services for small businesses to allow them to accept card and digital payments with ease. Check out our Merchant Services page to learn more and get started.
2. Hire Seasonal Help
Meeting and exceeding your customers’ needs during the holiday season is an important way to build and keep your customer base for the rest of the year. Just like you, your customers are swamped with holiday tasks—so the better experience you can provide them, the more they will see your business as a choice destination for holiday shopping, dining, or services. For many small businesses, hiring sufficient staff to manage the influx of customers during this time of year is essential to creating that experience. Plan for more employees on the busiest shopping days, including Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, the Friday before Christmas, and weekends in general. Consider working with local colleges, like Crowder or the University of Arkansas, to hire students to supplement your regular staff. And be sure to hire far enough in advance so that your new staff will have enough time to learn how to navigate your business and POS systems before they start, to ensure your customers have a smooth shopping experience.
3. Decorate Your Storefront
Customers come to expect everything to be wrapped in a layer of holiday flair, and if your business is one of the few stores or restaurants that doesn’t adhere to this expectation, it’s going to be less appealing to customers—rightly or not. But making your physical location (and website!) look and feel festive this time of year doesn’t have to be difficult. And your decorations don’t even need to be specific to Christmas—in fact, there are many festivities that are celebrated this time of year. Not sure where to get started? Check out these 35 Creative Christmas Display Ideas & Examples from Fits Small Business.
4. Make Repairs
Have you been putting off repairs or improvements that are detracting from the image of your business as a well-run or professional operation? Are there any potential safety hazards you need to address? Or have you been meaning to make some updates to improve your facility or your customer’s experience? If these things are something you need to or can easily accomplish before the busy holiday season, be sure to check them off your list to make the best impression on your customers this time of year. Small improvements may be easy enough to complete yourself, but for larger projects or those on a time crunch, you may need to seek outside, professional assistance. If you need funding to cover your necessary renovations, keep in mind that there are many great financing options available to businesses, including Operating Lines of Credit and Small Business Loans.
5. Have Enough Inventory
One of the most important aspects of running a successful business is to be sure that you never miss out on opportunities for sales, and not having sufficient inventory—especially of your most popular products—is one of the ways you can lose out on potential sales. Pay attention to buying trends leading up to the season, analyze your past years’ sales to be sure you stock up on best-selling items, and order as far ahead as you can, to avoid potential supply chain issues. If you don’t have a business line of credit, consider using an inventory loan to help manage your cash flow so low pre-season cash reserves don’t hinder your ability to pay for needed stock.
6. Set Up an Ecommerce Website
Online sales are set to reach $1.5 trillion this year. Because it’s such a huge potential market, if you have a unique set of products to sell—or even want to offer something as simple as printable gift cards—having an online storefront makes sense for many small businesses. And there are many useful platforms to choose from to help you set up an ecommerce website with ease. Most importantly, make sure your website is professional-looking, the inventory levels are accurate, and the site is safe and secure—customers may shy away from websites that don’t have the proper security features.
7. Make Sure Your Software is Up to Date
Security is not just for websites—any tech that you or staff use to manage your business and accept payments should be updated regularly, and the holidays are a crucial time to do so. That’s because the holidays are a prime time for scammers, and even businesses can fall victim during this busy time of year. Because malware is such a popular way for hackers to target and attack small businesses, keeping your software and systems up to date is essential. Be sure to update old software and operating systems. If they are no longer supported or your device is no longer supported by the manufacturer, replace it with something that is. And take the time to train your employees (especially seasonal workers) about the dangers of phishing scams and other cyber scams that can result in bank fraud, while you’re at it! The holiday season is the worst time for your business’s tech systems to suffer from an outage or cyber breach—so take steps to prevent it!
8. Offer Gift Cards
Gift cards are excellent ways to add profits to your margins and increase your potential pool of customers, while not having an immediate impact on your inventory. You can create physical and digital cards, as well as paper certificates, depending on your business’s needs. While digital and plastic cards with barcodes can be easier to track and harder to forge, even having the option of a simple certificate can help boost sales this time of year. If possible, make your gift card options special—add a little holiday panache, a nice envelope, or customizable online options so they make a good impact on the recipient, as well as the buyer.
9. Promote Your Business
Maybe you have a great, loyal client base and getting ready for the holiday shopping season is more about preparing for the expected traffic. But if you are a new business or have room to grow (and what business doesn’t?), it’s crucial to not only keep expanding your audience but also keep your current customers engaged. Keep in mind, everyone is being bombarded with deals and advertisements this holiday season, so you have a lot you will be competing with. Here are a few ways to reach out to your customers and potential customers:
- Promote on social media platforms. Create a Facebook Event for Small Business Saturday or other days when you may be having a special promotion. Post about deals or new products on Instagram. Reach out to other businesses to cross post and share each other’s promotions.
- Host a Small Business Saturday discount event. Run seasonal promotions. Most towns, including Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Cassville, Missouri, honor Small Business Saturday for local businesses. Offer special discounts throughout your store or on select items on this day to participate in local Small Business Saturday events. Additionally, consider offering additional discounts throughout the holiday season, as well as online discount codes.
- If you’re in or around Cassville, list your business on Downtown Cassville, Missouri’s Shop Downtown website.
- Create a mailing list and send newsletters to your customers. Give your customers a chance to opt-in to your newsletter when making online purchases and ask for email addresses at in-person checkouts as well. Then be sure to send out regular updates and special discounts and offers to your newsletter subscribers.
10. Be Transparent About Your Return Policy
Many major retailers have generous return policies, which sets an expectation that all businesses follow suit. But having your own clear, fair return policy is not only in the interest of your customers, it’s also in your best interest. As Fits Small Business points out in their article “How to Write a Retail Return Policy for Your Business & Why It’s Important,” having a straightforward return policy can actually drive sales because it cultivates customer loyalty and makes them less wary of making purchases. It can also help you avoid headaches down the road. If you don’t have a clear policy now, take the time to spell one out and display it where it is easy for customers to find it—both online and in your physical storefront.
11. Get Found Online: Create a Google Business Profile
Creating or claiming your Google Business Profile is essential for local businesses—it’s often the first thing your customers and potential customers see when they look up your company online. In your profile, you can list your hours (and alter them for holidays!), your products and services, and even post events and promotions for your business, all for free. If you have not yet created one, one might already exist, so check before you create a new one. If you find there is already a profile, make sure to claim it and that the information is correct and up-to-date (especially the hours and location) before the holiday season begins.
12. Save Time with Online Banking for Businesses
Using bank services designed specifically for businesses can save you a lot of time and stress any day, but especially during the busy holiday season. Cash Management Services, like those offered at CS Bank, include remote deposit capture, to quickly deposit checks from the comfort of your office without having to make a trip to the bank, and downloadable transactions, which allow you to organize, analyze, and document your cash flow with ease. Cash Management Services can also help speed up payroll with ACH Direct Deposit, saving you even more time. Our newly launched Autobooks can help you simplify your small business invoicing. Your business already has a commercial bank account—take advantage of these additional services to maximize your financial management.
Prepare for the Season with CS Bank
CS Bank has been partnering with small businesses in Northwest Arkansas for 110 years, and we know the tools your business needs to run smoothly and successfully. With a selection of customer-oriented Cash Management products including Remote Deposit Capture and Merchant Services, we can help you easily accept and process payments and stay on top of your holiday cash flow, allowing you to devote more time to running your business and enjoying the season. And if you’re starting a new business or you’re looking to expand your existing operation or build up your inventory reserves for the season, we have a number of options, from Small Business Loans, Operating Lines of Credit, to Inventory Loans to meet your financing needs. With branches in Eureka Springs, Berryville, Harrison, Huntsville, Holiday Island, and Cassville, we’re never far away. Stop in today to learn more about all we have to offer your small business!