Exterior of a shop where you can see holiday lights and decor set up inside.
From focusing on selling small brands' products to creating visually compelling store displays, retailers should consider these expert sales strategies for the holiday season. — Getty Images/EasyBuy4u

Consumers doubled down on their support of small businesses during the pandemic, and local merchants can leverage that momentum with the right strategies this holiday season, particularly on Small Business Saturday, the mega shopping day for SMBs.

Here, experts share tips on how to optimize the opportunities this November 26.

Engage the local business community

Working together with other small businesses can help drive awareness of Small Business Saturday, starting well before the actual calendar date, said Evan Janovic, a certified mentor with SCORE, a nonprofit dedicated to helping small businesses.

“For example, a poster of some kind could be put in the window of each participating store announcing the day,” he said. “Thus, someone walking around the neighborhood would see this as a community-wide event.”

Stores should start promoting the event at least two weeks prior, Janovic said.

In addition, retailers in the same community participating in Small Business Saturday should consider helping each other by creating flyers showing the discounts that other stores in the neighborhood are offering.

“Call [them] ‘near-buys,’” Janovic suggested.

American Express, which founded Small Business Saturday in 2010, might even be able to provide a professional design for the flyers, he said.

Offer bonus merchandise

Retailers are often wary of cutting prices on some items because customers easily become conditioned to expecting such deals, and then avoid buying items at full price. One way to get around that is to offer a free bonus item with a specific purchase.

Retailers might ask suppliers for sample items that can be used as “gift with purchase” items, for example, said Janovic.

Gift-with-purchase ideas include offering related free goods, he said, such as, “Buy a pair of shoes, get a free pair of socks”; “Buy paint, get free brush or roller”; or “Buy a book, get a discounted paperback.”

Place a big focus on small brands

Consumers shopping at small, independently owned stores on Small Business Saturday might also gravitate toward buying merchandise from small, local brands, or from brands that give back to their local communities, said Andrew Criezis, Senior Vice President and General Manager, of NielsenIQ SMB.

According to a survey in NielsenIQ’s The 2022 Brand Balancing Act report, 12% of consumers surveyed consider themselves “exclusive small brand buyers,” and a quarter of shoppers in that group seek to buy small brands in independent stores, he said.

“A small business on Small Business Saturday can simply optimize sales by focusing on selling small brands,” he said.

The report also found that 82% of exclusive small brand buyers said it’s important that brands support local communities. “These consumers are looking for products that give back to the community around them,” Criezis said.

In addition, 42% of these small-brand buyers seek products that are environmentally friendly, 41% look for natural and healthy items, and 38% want sustainably produced goods, the research found.

According to a survey in NielsenIQ’s The 2022 Brand Balancing Act report, 12% of consumers surveyed consider themselves “exclusive small brand buyers,” and a quarter of shoppers in that group seek to buy small brands in independent stores, he said.

Set up visually compelling store displays to drive impulse sales — and stay in stock

One of the biggest challenges retailers have faced in the last two holiday seasons has been keeping shelves in stock.

Before Small Business Saturday, retailers should ensure that their stores are adequately stocked with promoted items, said Inna Kuznetsova, CEO of ToolsGroup, a global supply chain planning and optimization firm.

A recent report from ToolsGroup and research firm IHL Group found that about a third of consumers have lost confidence in merchants to have items in stock when they want them, while at the same time consumer confidence in Amazon has grown. The report noted that consumers will give up on shopping at a retail store after just two or three out-of-stock experiences.

Not only do items need to be in stock, they also should be displayed to drive sales and create impulse purchases, said Janovic of SCORE.

“Set up your business to be visually successful,” he said. “All stores should have stacks or tables highlighting the specials.”

Nurture your customer relationships with personalized follow-up messages

Merchants should also think of Small Business Saturday as an opportunity to create new and lasting relationships with customers.

A recent blog post from marketing solutions firm Constant Contact suggested that merchants follow up with customers who sign up for their email list with a thank-you note or other gesture. Some ideas include posting images of photos that captured the excitement of Small Business Saturday in your store on Facebook, or emailing a photo directly to new customers.

“In any follow-up message you send, your goal should be to remind your customers of their great experience with you,” the blog suggested.

Retailers should also include an offer to entice customers back into the store before the end of the year, according to Constant Contact.

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