With the Fall season kicking off in less than two weeks, small business owners are about to get a friendly reminder just how close the 2014 holiday season really is. As you know, it’s crucial to be ready for it. You wouldn’t want to botch your chance for phenomenal sales at the busiest time of year, would you? Ensuring you have the necessary inventory on hand and that your merchandising plan is foolproof are two of the biggest factors that can determine profitability in any given holiday season. Let’s take a look at a few helpful inventory tips.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate with suppliers
The vendors you depend on are aiming to meet or exceed last year’s holiday sales just like you are. That means they’ll be looking for ways to give good deals so customers like you will purchase especially large quantities. Bulk discounts are common at this time of year and remember—even initial prices aren’t set in stone. If suppliers are in jolly holiday spirits, negotiating bulk costs can help you save money on inventory up front.
- Have other entrepreneurial friends? Team up!
Other small businesses are looking to stock up while cutting costs this season, too. If bulk discounts aren’t an option for your business on its own just yet, maybe you know an entrepreneur who will go in on supplies with you. Try combining forces to get a good bulk discount.
- Utilize technology
The latest inventory management software is literally at your fingertips. There are tons of downloadable computer programs and mobile apps that will make it easier to keep track of what you have in stock and when you need to get more. The options range greatly in price, and all have different bells and whistles to suit various businesses’ needs. One example is SOS Inventory. If your business uses QuickBooks, this app has some great features that will integrate nicely with the data you already have stored so you don’t have to re-enter any information. Furthermore, SOS Inventory lets you create sales orders, shipments and invoices, which aren’t all things you can do with QuickBooks. There’s also a useful app called Goods Order Inventory System. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and Windows, this app tracks inventory, orders and sales on mobile devices.
- Evaluate your last holiday season and set goals for improvement
This can be said for your business’s holiday plans in general. Be it inventory management or marketing blitzes, don’t overlook the benefit of studying your past successes and failures. This requires maintaining detailed records each year. You can get a great start by using one of the inventory management systems above, and you might also consider the Lettuce app. According to Entrepreneur.com, Lettuce “integrates related systems such as order capture, payment processing, shipping and tracking, customer relationship management, and sales and order analysis.” In any case, you’ll want to know exactly how much inventory you purchased in previous years and what prices each supplier charged you, so you can try to get the same deals—or better—in exchange for being a loyal customer that they can count on year after year. You’ll also need to consider whether you had the right amount of inventory last year, or if you were over or under-stocked.
And now, let’s take a closer look at some tried-and-true tips for small business merchandising during the busiest season of all.
- Have a plan for slow-moving items
To make room for your best sellers when the holidays roll around, you’ll need to clear up space. If you have a place to store some of your slower moving items until after the holidays, then you’re all set. However, it might be worth it to free yourself of that inventory through a charity giveaway or through pre-made holiday gift baskets. Never underestimate the power of gift baskets in December; view them as opportunities to unload items that are in limbo so you can stock up on hotter holiday goods.
- Take advantage of opportunities to upsell customers
Whether online or in-store, according to Amazon’s holiday merchandising guide, you should start by “identifying products that complement each other and introduc[ing] them to customers while they shop.” To accomplish this, catchy signage goes a long way. Create badges calling attention to a “recommended item” or a “best seller” and place those items next to other products that go well with them. You might even consider adding a personal touch to your recommendations. Try featuring brief, well-written blurbs from your own employees. Have them describe why this pepper grinder or that bedside lamp is the best thing since sliced bread.
- Organize and decorate strategically
You’ll likely stock items at this time of year specifically because you think they’ll be holiday staples. So how do you get them off the shelves at an unbelievably speedy rate? By strongly drawing attention to them. Not only should the snazziest holiday items be displayed prominently, they should be shown off in cheerful holiday fashion. Theme your displays for the season. Go overboard. Everyone digs holiday décor and shoppers will gravitate toward the areas of your store that remind them of snowflakes, cider and mittens.
- Give your social media channels an extra push
You can be sure that any and all things holiday related are going to dominate social media feeds throughout the season. Jumping on the bandwagon is a tactful move in this situation—it gives you the opportunity to place snappy gift ideas right underneath your fans and followers’ noses. You might even think about starting a weekly gift giveaway or promotion offered explicitly through social media. Start early in the season so you can set a pattern that followers take note of and begin trolling their feeds for.
By utilizing the inventory and merchandising tips listed above, your small business will be positioned to maximize sales this holiday season. ‘Tis the season to be organized! It pays off.