6 hurdles small retailers face during holidays
Locally owned small retailers can earn 50 percent or more of total annual sales during the critical holiday shopping period between Black Friday and New Year’s Day. The business choices made during this important period can have direct effects on a small firm’s cash flow for the entire year.
The SBA surveyed several business counselors from the Colorado Small Business Development Centers and SCORE to compile this list of the top six hurdles small retailers face during the busy holiday shopping season.
1. Lack of inventory control. Inventory control is crucial for all small retailers, especially during the busy holiday sales months. It is important to remember that inventory equals profits, and knowing how much product to order, when to order it and what items to order can make the difference between having cash in the bank or aging inventory on the shelves.
2. Hiring the wrong employees for critical positions. Hiring the wrong people for key positions carries costs. Small firms tend to have fewer layers of management between the owner and the employees, therefore new hires must be able to perform with less direct supervision and be motivated to get the job done right the first time. Avoid this issue by writing a detailed job description and training new employees on how you want them to represent your business.
3. Undercapitalization is a lump of coal no business wants or needs. Cash flow is the lifeblood of all small businesses. Cash flow allows a business to make payroll, pay suppliers and keep its doors open. Business owners can immediately increase cash flow by collecting accounts receivables in a timely manner; not keeping too much cash tied up in unnecessary inventory; and eliminating unprofitable account relationships.
4. Not embracing online sales and social media. A recent Census Bureau report shows that more than $75 billion in e-commerce sales were made during the second quarter of 2014 – a 5 percent increase over the previous quarter. A 2013 study by Forrester Research Inc. showed that by 2017 nearly 60 percent of all U.S. retail sales will involve the web. As more consumers make holiday purchases using the Internet, it is imperative that small retailers develop a retail web presence. Also, leverage Twitter and Facebook to promote one-day sales or plug special product lines and high inventoried merchandise.
5. Not delaying the employee office party and social events. It is sales crunch time from Black Friday until New Year’s Day. Office parties can cause distractions at a time when the business needs to be especially productive. Too much food and drink can not only cause a nasty hangover, but sidetrack employee and management’s focus. Consider moving the company party until after New Year’s Day and call it the annual thank-you event.
6. Innovation and creativity lost. Historically, locally owned small retailers beat their big box competitors by providing outstanding individualized customer service. Black Friday creep has pushed large retailers into flooding the market with loss leader pricing on a wide array of holiday products. Small retailers should take the offensive by selling creative and innovative products that cannot be found at the local mega mall. Create a unique customer experience that will draw shoppers to travel outside of their comfort zone and discover that out of the ordinary shopping district with 10 trendy stores, not 100 traditional chain stores.
For more information on ways the SBA can assist your small business this holiday season, visit http://www.sba.gov or call the Colorado District Office at 303-844-2607.
Matt Varilek serves as the SBA’s Region VIII administrator and is based in Denver. He oversees the agency’s programs and services in Colorado, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
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