When Holidays Collide with Government Issues: Growing a Retail Business in a Tough Holiday Season

Retailers Preparing for Holiday Sales

Holiday 2013 is shaping up to be a wild and crazy ride for retailers. Planning for it with any expectation of accuracy is virtually impossible because there are too many unknown variables. Everything from the calendar to Congress is aligning against a business as usual holiday season.

The twenty-six shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the shortest period possible. The first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day this year. The last time this happened was in 1888. Using historical data to predict current results is a little challenging since there are no previous examples to review. Black Friday is already creeping into Thursday’s time slot in hopes of getting a little more time to sell products. How successful this strategy will be for retail business is anybody’s guess.

The effect of the congressional hijinks that led to the shutdown and is threatening loan defaults and Social Security payments remains unknown. If people don’t trust their leaders to lead, will they hunker down? Odds are that retailers selling basic goods and survivor equipment have little to fear. Everyone else should prepare for the worst. The unknown is an enemy to prosperity. And, the US has a lot of “unknown” things floating around right now.

If our leaders choose a temporary solution for the debt ceiling and government shutdown, it will carry over past the holiday season. Consumers’ confidence is bound to decline. The Affordable Care Act requires people to buy health insurance but does not have a functioning website. At the time of this writing, only a few people trying to learn about options and expense can access the information. People know there are problems but have no idea how bad they are or when they will go away.

Retailers making the best of a challenging situation will focus on creating and solidifying relationships in addition to generating sales. In time, the issues of this holiday season will disappear. Revenue generation is an ongoing business requirement fulfilled by loyal customers. Creating an environment where people feel valued and served reduces the effects of future external issues. A strong future is the best gift managers can give their company. To position your company for growth and profitability:

Refine your marketing to focus on customer behavior. Creating targeted campaigns delivering messages that match people’s needs and expectations generate more sales at less cost.

Include retention marketing and service enhancements in your email marketing. Most companies use email for promotional purposes only. Adding retention and service improves the effectiveness of all campaigns.

Simplify the buying decision. Provide more information and streamline the purchasing process to make choosing your products as simple as possible.
Think long-term when planning strategy. The challenges of this year will disappear in a few months. Don’t let short-term issues affect long-term decisions.

Provide quality service experiences. The shopping experience will be remembered long after the price is forgotten. Create an environment that helps people accomplish their holiday goals in minimal time.

Follow up after the holidays. If you don’t want your customers to hit & run, don’t treat them like one night stands. Follow up with thank you notes to show your appreciation.

For more information, visit email marketing best practices for retailers.

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