A Holiday Success Story?

Over the past month or so I’ve been reflecting on the holiday shopping season and some of the things I’ve learned and think that business owners should strongly consider applying to their businesses in the new year.

Black Friday showed that stores that would be generally consider to be in the same market and sell the same products can still offer different deals. I can’t say that there were really great deals for Black Friday this year, but I was pleased to see that the stores had different items as their big deal items. While I doubt that they sat down and said “you offer a deal on sweaters, you offer a deal on scarves, you offer a deal on PJ sets, and you offer a deal on flannel shirts,” it was educational and encouraging to see that stores that offer the same items can all be successful, even simply by focusing on different things. If everyone’s offering a deal on cooking pots, yes, you can too if you sell them, but why not offer a deal on prep appliances like blenders, mixers or choppers that someone might use at the same time as that cooking pot?

For Black Friday there were also a couple of favorites/classics that were on deep discounts. But this wasn’t true across the board and the classics/favorites that have been on sale previous years weren’t on sale this year, which was a little disappointing.  The lesson? Just because they’re classics, it doesn’t mean that the market is completely saturated yet, and you never know if the product wore out during the past year and they were waiting for Black Friday to buy a replacement.

One of the big opportunities that some stores took advantage of but a surprising number definitely did not was to extend their hours for holiday shopping. If you’re balancing between online and a physical store or focused on running a physical store you have to do something to stand out as a physical store, and one of the simplest ways to please customers and differentiate yourself is to offer better/different/extended hours. There are a couple of businesses that are never open hours that are convenient for those who work odd hours or even those who work regular hours (9-5). Some things simply can’t be done on a lunch break or on the weekend, and if stores aren’t open late/early at least one day per week it makes it challenging to shop there and certainly discourages shoppers from wanting to shop there.  That doesn’t mean you have to be open crazy hours every day, but at least one day a week would be helpful.

Something many businesses did do well this holiday season was to offer free shipping any level at least 2-3 days per holiday season, or at the very least something less expensive like $2-3 shipping.  It’s a simple thing that could mean all the difference between people choosing to buy with you or buy from someone else.

Finally, a bit of a mixed bag on Christmas Day.  Quite a few companies sent well wishes, but almost no one had a special sale that day.  Today there were just a small handful of after-Christmas sales, but not remarkable numbers.  What’s interesting about this? Well, I appreciate that companies chose to send cheer on Christmas and celebrate and thank their customers.  But the fact is lots of people give money or gift cards for Christmas and there are people looking to spend them, so the few companies that have post-Christmas sales are going to finish stronger than the others.  Don’t give up on the year just because you’ve had good pre-Christmas sales.

What have you learned from this holiday sales season?

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