Boost Cash Flow by Preparing for the Holiday Season

Author: Caron Beesley | July 25, 2016

It’s hard to even contemplate Christmas in July, but now is the best time for small retailers to kick off planning for the busy holiday season. After all, it’s the best way to manage seasonal cash flow! It’s a big market with a big window, so preparation is key to success.

Although the holiday shopping season gets going in October, last year the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that the average shopper had completed only 53.5% of their shopping by mid-December and were still figuring out what to buy—and half of shoppers planned to shop after-Christmas sales. So you’re looking at a three-, potentially four-month stretch of opportunity.

Here’s what you can do right now to prepare.

  1. What Did You Learn Last Year?

Start by reviewing what you did last year and what’s worth repeating or doing differently. The NRF offers a useful holiday planning playbook that asks small business owners what they would do differently. Consider the following:

  • Are there ways you can better target consumers based on buying behaviors?
  • Could you benefit from better business intelligence?
  • What about marketing personalization in your emails?
  • Did discounts work for you? Are there other ways to entice consumers, like improved email marketing?
  • Were your staff adequately trained?
  • What about extended store hours?
  • Did you have a real-time, accurate view into inventory?
  • How did your supply chain fair?
  • Were you prepared for cash flow surprises?
  1. Lock Down Staffing Plans

With holiday trade starting earlier and earlier, use the time you have now to secure additional staff so that they are in place and well-trained when the holiday flood comes.

  1. Start Cleaning and Segmenting Email Lists

Now is the time to ensure you purge your email lists and segment your contacts for improved personalization and targeting for the holiday season. This will provide a big boost to your email open rates and improve conversion: Segmented emails have a 60% higher click-through rate. You can read more here. You might also want to read 7 Ridiculously Simple Ways to Improve Your Holiday Email Marketing.

  1. Brainstorm and Map Your Marketing Plans

Use the time while everyone is vacationing to plan out the rest of the year.

  • Brainstorm and plan outreach campaigns
  • Find ways to tap into your loyal customers
  • Monitor trends and your competition
  • Determine your offers and their timing
  • Bundle products and develop add-on services
  • Order your in-store displays and marketing
  • Audit and update your web and mobile assets
  • Plan your events (secret sales, Small Business Saturday, holiday party)
  1. Plan Your Inventory

Find ways to streamline the inventory experience this holiday season.

Look to past years to take the guesswork out of your buying decisions or invest in business intelligence software to help you predict your inventory needs. Cloud-based BI tools, like Tableau and Birst, are making this a lot easier and more affordable for small businesses.

Make sure you have ample supplies of high-margin lines. Are there any slow-moving or less profitable items that you can bundle as gift packages or buy-one-get-one free offers?

  1. Negotiate Flexible Terms from Suppliers

Holiday retailers often incur most of their variable expenses (inventory, marketing, etc.) between now and the holiday season. The trouble is you won’t see any immediate returns on those investments until your revenues kick in, so an extended payment plan can help ease the pain of these pre-season costs.

Similarly, don’t pay your suppliers until you have to or try seek a discount for early payment.

If your business is profitable and you have a good relationship with your suppliers, consider asking now for a line of credit before you actually need it—this will also give you more purchasing power and help you manage any potential lag in cash flow.

  1. If You Specialize in Custom Gifts, Don’t Wait

Small businesses often specialize in artisan or custom holiday gifts, which require time to create and perfect. Try to encourage customers to make their purchases in September so that you have enough time to meet demand.

  1. Plan for Cash Flow Dips

Because you’re investing now for the holidays, those upfront costs call for extra cash. Use your cash flow forecast to predict potential problems in the timing of cash going in versus cash going out.

Then, look into financing alternatives to support your holiday trade— a line of credit, business credit card, small loan, or a Fundbox advance payment for outstanding invoices.

Happy planning!

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