The holiday shopping season is almost upon us, and for retailers, 2017 has the potential to be a very good year. Consumers plan to spend an average of $728.40 each on gifts and other holiday purchases, according to The International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey, which projects a 3.8 percent increase in retail sales this holiday season. Deloitte forecasts e-commerce sales to rise by 18 to 21 percent over last holiday season. There’s no need for brick-and-mortar retailers to worry, though: The vast majority of sales still happen offline, and more than 90 percent of shoppers plan to visit a physical store this holiday season.

As you gear up for the holidays, plan for success by avoiding these common holiday preparation mistakes.


1.  Waiting too long: Two-thirds of consumers plan to start shopping before Thanksgiving, according to the ICSC, and 27 percent started in August. That means your planning should already be underway, too.




2.  Not hiring enough staff: Customers’ expectations for quick service are higher than ever before. Plus, competition for seasonal workers is stiff so it's important to make sure you’re adequately—and professionally—staffed. It's not too early to review scheduling and start hiring.



3.  Selling old-fashioned paper gift certificates: Paper gift certificates give the impression your store is out of date. They also take more time to issue, since they have to be filled out by hand, and consumers are more likely to lose them or discard them by accident. Plastic gift cards are easy and affordable for even small retailers to offer, and are predicted to be the most popular holiday gift this season: ICSC says two-thirds of consumers plan to buy them. If you’re still offering paper gift certificates, moving to a plastic gift card program can really boost sales.


4.  Not updating your website: A whopping 85 percent of shoppers plan to research online before buying a product in a brick-and-mortar store, according to the ICSC study. Prepare your store’s website with a holiday makeover, including holiday-themed images, gift ideas and special offers. Add as much information as you can about the products you sell. The more detail you provide, the better.


5.  Not optimizing your website for local search: When consumers go online to find local stores, your business needs to show up in the search results. To do so, make sure your listings on local search directories are complete and consistent, with your name, address and phone number spelled exactly the same way in each place. Update your listings with information about holiday hours, holiday promotions and hot products.  While you’re at it, make sure your essential business information—your store’s location, hours and phone number—are prominently displayed on your website’s homepage.


6.  Not advertising online: Given that 85 percent of consumers start their holiday shopping online, according to the ICSC, investing in digital advertising should be a no-brainer. Create pay-per-click ads using keywords relevant to your store or to popular products you carry.


RELATED ARTICLE: Tips for Hiring Seasonal Employees Ahead of the Holiday Rush


7.  Getting careless with the bottom line: Yes, consumers are projected to spend more this holiday season than last season. However, with increasing competition from online, offline and multichannel options, retailers are also expected to offer plenty of promotions. Don’t try to compete with Walmart or Target on Black Friday deals: Carefully calculate the costs and benefits of any promotions you offer, and stay on top of your profit margins throughout the season.


8.  Running out of inventory: Take advantage of your inventory management system’s features to project inventory needs based on last year’s sales and this years’ outlook. Stay on top of inventory on a daily basis so you don’t get caught short, or set alerts or automatic reorders when stock runs low.          


Make no mistake: By following these tips, you’ll be well prepared to enjoy success and reap the benefits of the holiday season. Happy selling!


About Rieva Lesonsky

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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.


Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.



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