Stocking up for the holidays is in the works before the leaves start changing colours. Last year, the average Canadian consumer planned to spend $1563 over the course of the holiday season – a 3.7% increase from 2017. From family gatherings to holiday parties, the year-end calls for a variety of different occasions and gift-giving opportunities. As consumers are revving up for the holiday season, small businesses need to be there to fulfill the demand. The problem to avoid is letting day-to-day operations take over planning and to make room for stocking up for the holidays.

Taking Advantage of Key Selling Periods
Towards the end of the year, not only are gift-giving holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah fast approaching but selling periods such as Cyber Week, Boxing Day and Black Friday offer shoppers convenience and variety at discount prices. Now more than ever it’s becoming increasingly common for businesses to extend their sales during key selling periods. Successful merchants are using promotional activities and pre-sales before key selling periods to stand out and attract customers for increased periods of time throughout the holiday season. Essentially successful merchants are creating an almost continuous presence in the consumer’s holiday outlook. In 2017, Canada Post saw a 21% increase in merchants offering pre-Black Friday promotions as early as two weeks in advance and 61% of merchants offered pre-Boxing Day sales. All of this requires lots of planning and lots of prep. In order to get ready for these kinds of volume influxes, businesses need to start stocking up early and planning how they can accommodate increased demand. Timing is everything and taking advantage of these profitable shopping windows is key to a successful year end.

Capacity Planning
All this extra business sounds great and it really is – unless you don’t plan ahead. In addition to good timing, a targeted business approach to hook customers is key. Not only maintaining a steady volume of orders, but being able to level these orders. Managing high volumes of orders and abrupt surges in sales will help your small business avoid fulfilment bottlenecks. Stocking up ahead of time helps ease fulfilment problems during periods of business spikes.

Finding the Right Medium 
We’ve all been there – it’s a few days before a special holiday and we still can’t find that perfect gift. Whether you’re a good planner and get all your shopping done in time or not, having options makes the whole process a lot easier. That’s why finding the right selling medium can make or break year-end. Taking advantage of less traditional selling methods, such as e-commerce, can help diversify your customer base and reach. If e-commerce is an option, other components such as free or flat-rate express shipping upgrades can incentivize consumers to increase orders. This can in turn create incremental sales boosts and offset other costs.
Of course, e-commerce is not suitable for every business so finding what works best for your business and making it work for you and your customers is the best approach. Pre-sales and extended promotion deadlines are a great way to keep customers interested. They help customers leverage their options however, there is a fine balance between convenience and losing the lucrative nature of flash sales and ‘today only’ promotions. Again, timing is everything and this needs to be considered in the framework of your specific business model.
Other things that incentivize customers to support your business are competitions, giveaways and engagement across social media. During the holiday season, people are looking for inspiration online and the more you cater to what the consumer is seeking, the higher the return rate. The holiday season is not just about making sales but also about making lasting connections that build a relationship between a business and its community.
At the end of the day, it comes down being prepared for the holidays. Ensuring a smooth transition into high volume, key selling periods is the best way to get your business out of the holidays stronger than it was before. Instead of scrambling to fulfill holiday orders, finish the year on top by planning ahead and stocking up in time!

By Juliana Schneider