The ultimate 2023 retail store holiday checklist

Editorial Team

7 min read
Storefront exterior decorated for the holidays

The holiday shopping season is right around the corner. In fact, many small business owners already started to prepare for the December shopping season in June or July. If you haven’t started planning yet, or are feeling a little behind, this holiday to-do list can help you catch up fast.

Delegate and automate

Preparing for the retail holidays means you’ll have to juggle extra tasks on top of the normal workload of running a business. It’s important to be proactive about managing your stress and energy to avoid burnout. 

One way to manage your energy over the long shopping season is to delegate to other team members early and add automation tools–like Clover’s inventory management feature, admin tools like Order Paper, and other apps from Clover’s App Market–to help keep things running smoothly.

READ: How to automate your business in 5 easy steps

Plan a staged marketing strategy

According to Bankrate’s 2022 Winter Holiday Shopping Survey, 8% of customers started researching holiday purchases before September. That considered, you’ll need a marketing strategy in place in early autumn in order to capitalize on every possible sale. 

Clover’s POS reporting and sales tracking provides the customer data you need to create an impactful holiday marketing strategy. This tool can help you understand average sales and highest-selling products during last year’s holiday shopping period to set your targets for this year. 

Curate gift guides

One of the most effective forms of holiday marketing is gift guides. One study found that emails featuring gift guides generated a 48% increase in transactions compared to other kinds of mailings, showing that it’s a great way to convert casual browsers into paying customers. 

Use data from your reporting dashboard to pinpoint your best-selling products based on historical sales data. Coupled with information from Clover Customers, this information can help you tailor gift guides based on certain categories (such as Best Gifts for Teachers, Best Gifts for Gen Zs, and more). 

Start planning in-season promos 

You’ll be competing for customers with plenty of other retailers during the holiday shopping season. So, run the numbers to see what holiday promotions you may be able to offer during the peak sales season to attract customers to your business. 

Ideally, your promotions will be structured to increase customer loyalty and customer acquisition. For instance, offer a friends-and-family discount, exclusive sales preview, or a cross promotion with another local business.

Now is also a good time to experiment with deals to see what resonates with new customers. The resulting new sales can offer you quick feedback to see what’s working and what isn’t. Test new deals and promotions at a time when people are motivated to spend. The best of these can be carried on into the new year.

Offer gift cards 

Are you equipped to offer gift cards? If not, you could be missing a key sales moment. 

There are many benefits of offering gift cards. From moving unique inventory to increasing sales, gift cards are a win-win for customers and merchants alike. Holidays and special occasions present perfect opportunities to boost gift card sales. Clover makes setting up and managing a gift card program quick and easy. Clover Gift Cards are available in physical or digital options and are simple to design and execute.

Hire early 

Hiring seasonal staff when most people would prefer to be on holiday is always a challenge. Many businesses are competing for part-time workers and trying to manage their own employees’ holiday time off. So, prepare early by advertising your staffing needs on social media accounts, getting the word out among your employees, and encouraging employee referrals with an incentive.

The hiring process can be time-consuming, so look for ways to streamline seasonal recruitment. The JazzHR app can help you create and post job listings across multiple sites and keep candidates organized. Likewise, managers can prepare ahead for onboarding by setting up a new hire’s workstation, personal locker, uniform, nametag, or any other employee materials they need.

Put scheduling on autopilot

Juggling employee schedules during the holiday season can get especially tricky with requests for time off and busy shopping hours all happening simultaneously. The Time Clock by Homebase app allows employees to message each other and you directly about covering shifts–and easily track their hours. 

Create unique shopping moments

Shopping during the holidays is often unpleasant: long lines, stockouts, and stressed-out customers make the entire process feel hectic. Motivate first-time holiday shoppers to make a return visit by creating unique experiences, such as events, product demonstrations, or workshops for those who want to know more about your products or services.

Get personal

Set your store apart from larger enterprises by personalizing the holiday shopping experience. The simple act of sending a personalized email thanking new customers for their business is a small gesture that can have a big impact on wooing them back. Consider sending a note with a discount that can be redeemed during the holiday season with a private deal, gift with purchase, tiered discount offer, or even an exclusive item available only to those on the mailing list.

Nurture customer loyalty 

Clover Rewards helps merchants nurture customer loyalty and satisfaction after their initial engagement with the business. Businesses can enroll first-time customers in Clover Rewards and delight them with a discount or exclusive offer sent via email or text message a few days after their initial visit.

Make life easy for your customers 

Businesses can also solidify long-lasting relationships with customers by exceeding expectations during the holidays. Small touches, like mailing packages with 3-5 day shipping to customers who chose 5-7 day shipping can go a long way. Or, consider staying open later when you know that some customers will be rushing to do their last-minute shopping. Use Clover Promos to send high-value, real-time promotions via email, text, or social media to loyal customers and those you hope to reel in for subsequent business.

Drive foot traffic

If you have a physical storefront, prepare for higher-than-normal foot traffic. While many shoppers are researching products online, they may still want the experience of going to a brick-and-mortar store to complete the purchase.

Help customers find you by creating a Google Business Profile. A Business Profile helps customers find and connect with your store on Google Search and Maps. Discoverability also helps shoppers who wait until the very last minute to finish their holiday shopping.

Retail businesses aren’t the only ones that need to prepare for higher foot traffic. Restaurants, too, need to be ready for increased demand over the holidays. One way to make the most of the festive season is to design a menu that maximizes profit. Family-style and take-and-bake to-go meals are popular options for big gatherings, especially when customers get tired of cooking. And, if you don’t already, offer additional ways to pay during extra-busy periods to keep things running smoothly (think: Clover’s Scan to Pay, Online Ordering).

Plan beyond December 

While the holiday sales season officially lasts from November 1 – December 31, it won’t be until after January that things feel normal again for many businesses. And, it may even be that you get extra-busy post-holidays. For instance, gyms get really busy in January with New Year’s resolutions. Be sure to work some post-holiday planning into your overall approach to the holiday season.

Celebrate your team

When the dust settles, take time to celebrate the effort that went into making the season a success by thanking your team. Recognize those full-time and seasonal workers who fulfill orders, handle sales, restock inventory, bake goods, serve customers, and keep things chugging along.

Review your metrics

The last thing on your holiday checklist should be to see how your business performed by reviewing sales and other KPIs in your Clover dashboard. Clover’s reporting and analytics tools highlight trends and benchmarking to track how your business grows over time. Sales analysis will offer insight into customer behavior and buying habits, so businesses can strategize for the rest of the year.

Prepping for the holiday season takes a lot of time and forethought. The items on this retail holiday checklist can help you get ready for the busy season–and beyond. Clover’s retail POS system can help ensure your business’s holiday readiness. Reach out to our sales team today.

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