Startup Diaries: Maximizing Sales and Profit During the Holiday Season

[Startup Diaries is a new original series of articles from Yahoo! Small Business Advisor that chronicles the day-to-day and week-to-week struggles of a variety of startup and new small businesses.]

J.P. Sawyer recently left his nine-to-five to go into business with his brother. In Summer 2012 they started Tide 38 Clothing Co., a collection of clothing and accessories that combines nautical design with a fresh, new feel.

The holiday spirit is in full effect. This will be our first holiday season as business owners and we don't want to miss the opportunity provided this time of year. During the holidays, we expect sales to increase. It's a fact. But how can we maximize our sales? We're learning a few strategies already.

Don't over-sale (not to be confused with over-sell). It shows a weakness in the product. People are going to buy during the holidays. We don't need to make everything 50 percent off. If we did, profit would be nonexistent (and we believe that customers will actually over-pay -- for a quality product -- because it's the holidays). A $100 profit, whether we sell 10 or 100 items, is still $100 in profit. During Black Friday, Tide 38 didn't give more than a 10-percent discount and still managed a significant increase in sales.

Post group deals. As people who hate shopping know, the easiest form of buying is getting everyone the same gift (every family member of mine will be opening a Tide 38 product...). Use holiday-based offers, focused on not just the holidays but also the weeks that follow. Example: "use code '25daysofChristmas' and receive 25 percent off your purchase" or "receive 25 percent off your next purchase." Like I said, people will buy during the holidays -- it's sales after the holidays that separate strong businesses from weak ones.

The holidays hypnotize. If you have a store: decorate, play music, have Santa arrive. The more, the merrier.

Customize products. At Tide 38, we just ordered winter-based clothing: long-sleeve shirts, scarves, winter hats, and small products (ornaments, for example) that say things like, "Tis the season to follow the wave." Remember, holiday spirit, holiday spirit, holiday spirit! Dunkin' Donuts does it best. During this time of year, they have Christmas-theme frosted donuts, coffee cups, bags, and decorations. They get it.

Establish a new tab on your website just for the holidays, even if the products are the same. It's appealing; the first place customers will shop.

Advertise more. Send emails or cards to potential customers wishing them happy holidays and advertising upcoming sales. Contact local newspapers. Post more frequently on Facebook and Twitter. For example, type in "#Christmas" on Twitter; then find recent posts from people with the same hashtag, and tweet a subtle message to them: "Love Christmas. So excited! Check out Tide 38 for great gifts and deals." Also, retweet them because it makes them feel important (seriously).

After the holidays some business owners may tend to think: "Time to take a break." Wrong! We're aiming to gain customers during this time, not lose them! If our customers aren't in our store, they might go to our competitors.

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