While the holiday shopping season typically starts after Halloween—and ramps up significantly on Black Friday—planning for this seasonal surge starts months in advance. Retailers dependent on strong holiday sales should start thinking in summer and early fall about how they want to market their business, what kind of in-store experience they want to offer, and what operational changes need to be made to maximize their retail success.

Even if you’ve fallen behind schedule on prepping for a busy shopping season, it’s not too late to develop a plan that will help you drive revenues and grow your customer base through this crucial holiday season. After a 2020 holiday shopping season that was plagued by safety, supply chain and other complications affecting local retail sales, many businesses are hoping to bounce back strong in 2021.

Read on for five tips to position your business for retail success this holiday season.

1. Start Your Holiday Advertising Early

A common refrain regarding holiday retail is that the holiday shopping season starts earlier every year. While it’s true that early holiday advertising can help extend the holiday shopping season and capture sales from shoppers eager to get their gift-buying done, this year may offer even more incentive to get a jump on holiday advertising and the retail sales it can generate.

Due to ongoing supply chain issues primarily caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many retail experts are forecasting a holiday shopping season plagued by slow deliveries, limited stock for toys and other gifts, and long waits to restock retail inventories once they’ve sold out.

In response, retailers should be proactive not only in advertising their holiday sales early, but also stocking up on inventory to meet customer demand throughout the holiday season. As inventories dry up and coveted gifts become scarce, retailers that anticipate and plan for this shortage could be well-positioned to cash in not only early in the holiday sales cycle, but through the end of the calendar year.

2. Participate in Small Business Saturday

After the dust from Black Friday’s chaos settles, Small Business Saturday can be a powerful marketing tool to help your business drive in-store foot traffic, connect with existing and new customers, and reward shoppers with a great customer experience.

Don’t be content to simply open your retail doors and let the Small Business Saturday shoppers trickle in. Turn your store into an event destination with one-day sales, fun gift bundles, giveaways, contests, and other promotional tools that drive engagement and create a lasting impression among shoppers.

3. Support Local Charities and Events

Charitable support—in the form of donated items, sponsorships, and other branded participation—can increase visibility for your business ahead of and during the holiday shopping season.

This can be a particularly effective strategy if your business is relatively new in your community, or if it lacks the visibility of more established competitors. The goodwill your business shows by supporting community initiatives could be a powerful tool for attracting new customers and cultivating a positive local reputation.

4. Assess Your Need for Seasonal Help

With the labor shortage in America showing no signs of going away, seasonal help could become a significant pain point for some businesses during the holiday shopping season.

Rather than waiting until the need for seasonal help arises—or planning your hires for the seasonal peak of your retail activity—you might be better off planning ahead, taking applications and hiring early, and securing seasonal help before local competition drives those wages even higher.

A good employee recruiting strategy can help you increase the quantity and quality of your job applicants, maximizing the value of your seasonal hires. If you wait too long, you might struggle to find qualified applicants who want to take your position—and the price could creep so high that it becomes untenable for your business.

5. Stay Vigilant With COVID Safety

Safety concerns and guidance regarding COVID protocols remains in a state of constant flux. Especially as temperatures dip and people spend more time indoors, it’s important for retailers to be mindful of COVID safety recommendations both for the concern of their customers and their employees.

From mask recommendations to cleaning protocols, make sure you’re aware of the current level of risk in your area, and make the decisions that you feel are in the best interest of your business. Whether this means setting up outdoor shopping installations, recommending or even requiring masks for shoppers, or a combination of other safety measures, remember to balance your retail ambitions with your priorities in keeping your retail space safe for all. You can also use your existing marketing channels to make sure customers know that you’re being mindful of their safety and taking the necessary precautions.

When it comes to advertising around the holidays, the stakes and the potential rewards are both high. A digital advertising partner can help you build out a successful, cost-effective strategy for engaging new and existing customers to maximize sales across the holiday season. Contact us today to learn more.