It’s 5:15 on December 24th. You gift wrapped one final present for that very late customer rushing to a holiday party and, phew, you’re done! Another year of sell, sell, selling and perhaps worry, worry, worrying? But, after the madness, you can breathe a little easier for a while. Right?
Yes, owning a shop is a 24/7 gig, especially fourth quarter. And planning for fourth quarter. Then cleaning up after fourth quarter and getting ready for the new year. Another phew!
Here are some suggestions to help end the year with a positive bang, rather than an exhausted whimper. These five “R” words can help get you through to the next hurdle: 2019. Memorize them!
After you close shop on December 24th, although you probably just want to go home and imbibe some (spiked) eggnog, spend 30 minutes reviewing the season. Did sales match expectations? Did you have enough help? Did some inventory not do as well as you’d hoped? What were your biggest issues or challenges? What worked? Make some quick notes and file them somewhere you’ll remember. Put a calendar reminder on August first to review them since, undoubtedly, you’ll forget some details in eight months. Written evidence works!
Honestly, the most important part of marketing happens inside your shop. It’s called “visual merchandising,” and can literally make or break a shop. Displays deliver subconscious messages about what you’re selling, can make expensive items look cheap or can raise the perceived value of inexpensive items.
Once the holiday season is over, it’s imperative to make some changes to your shop. Maybe the layout needs tweaking. Maybe you need to invest in some new display units. Maybe you need to seriously re-think the overall feel of your shop.
Refresh displays suffering from post-holiday gaps with nothing coming to fill them in. Take down the entire display unit and re-adjust other displays to fill the space. Use ‘filler’ items like space-taking risers (bricks, logs, upside down bowls, etc.), fabric, rocks, crushed glass, plants, dried flowers, etc. Add a single book or greeting card in empty spots.
If you’re one of those on-top-of-things shop owner who (wisely) planned ahead, you probably have Valentine’s Day orders in the back room ready to put out. Hold off displaying them until all holiday sale items have left the building so you can start fresh. Nothing is worse (although chain stores vehemently disagree) than seeing the next holiday merchandise out before the current holiday is done!
Find out what that means to you! Whether it means spending some time in gratitude, or just feeling relieved to have survived another season, honor that. It could mean giving your employees a deserved reward for work well done. Take them out for a nice meal; treat them to a gift certificate; spring a holiday bonus or surprise them with something they’ve been eyeing from your shop.
Most importantly, it could mean determining how to respect some of those difficult customers wanting to….
That dreaded R-word no retailer wants to think about! Here’s the truth: Returns happen. A common fear indie-shoppers have is harsh, or even non-existent, return policies. Big stores can afford to be lenient about returns, so at least try to be flexible.
Have reasonable return policies stated on your receipts and posted near your cash register. If 14 days seems realistic to you, then state it. If gifts can be exchanged or given credit only, then state that. Perhaps be a bit more lenient after the holidays since ‘tis the season for returning unwanted gifts.
Remember: Even the smallest thoughtful action can have a positive impact and possibly deliver a lifelong customer. It’s worth it to bend the rules, and at times, bend over backward for the sake of your business.
Fourth-quarter busy-ness probably relegates self-care to the backseat of business concerns. Burning the candle at both ends can end up making you stressed, sleep-deprived, and maybe even sick. Ironically, it’s all for the business you started because of some fantasized notion about working for yourself!
Ultimately, you’ll be supporting a healthy business by prioritizing your own wellbeing. Even just a 15-minute veg-out break, a short walk to look at the sky, a (heaven forbid) day off, or maybe even grab a healthy bite called lunch (please eat it mindfully).
Do something that takes care of you emotionally, whether it’s hiring a business coach, spending time with a good listener friend over wine, your four-legged bestie, or a compassionate therapist—nurture your psyche.
Join a networking support group of other like-minded business owners, or create your own. Remind yourself that it’s okay (and healthy) to say no, set firm work boundaries (no screen time after eight; bills can wait!), and delegate tasks to others.