How Retailers Can Prepare for a Rough Holiday Season

How can small businesses keep selling this holiday season in the middle of a pandemic supply chain squeeze?
Adam Rowe

Somewhere, the Grinch is chuckling to himself: The global supply chain that keeps retailers stocked up has stalled out thanks to pandemic-related congestion, and it's projected to impact the entire holiday season.

As a result, customers will see fewer discounts and more out-of-stock signs. But the total holiday cash spend is still expected to be in the hundreds of billions — so how can retailers make sure that their store is best positioned to benefit?

Well, the honest answer is that they'll need to start thinking about it yesterday. But if you're hoping to catch up on all the best tips for surviving until the supply chain starts recovering sometime in the first half of 2022, here's what to do.

1. Offer Deals Early

Residential delivery costs for the UPS will be going up on on October 31, and FedEx's price hike will follow on November 1. That just gives any business with a holiday shipping rush a few more days left to promote deals that can result in money-saving early shipping.

You'll also want pick your battles: Offer deals on items that you know you can deliver, not just the ones that audiences will get excited about.

Like we said, retailers need to be doing this yesterday. Sorry to break the news this way! I promise the rest of this article is more actionable.

2. Focus on Ecommerce

This year, shoppers are flexing their working-from-home skills when buying gifts as well as when actually working: The Adobe Digital Economy Index sees online prices up 3% as we being the holiday season — a great number compared to the average in past years being a drop by 5%.

For storeowners, that means keeping a well-maintained website with an attractive online shopping element. We've covered the top ecommerce website builders in the past, and any of them would work great.

3. Diversify Delivery

In-store pickup, curbside pick-up, and local delivery are all potential ways to get your product to a customer, and each one that you can offer will help to set you apart from the competition in a small way.

You may not have as many discounts as usual, but a range of options for how people can buy them will let a business stand out. And even if someone doesn't want to shop online, they might want to browse online so that they know what they're getting as soon as they set foot in the brick-and-mortar shop.

4. Keep Payments Flexible

Similarly to a range of delivery options, retailers will benefit from greater payment options, even if their product selection is smaller. Cash, MasterCard, and Visa are all givens, but Apple Pay and PayPal might help as well.

Some POS systems will even accept bitcoin now, an option that admittedly seems unlikely to drive much activity unless your customers are the extremely online type. Nevertheless, the right system should support a wide range of payment options, and it'll help to have the increased flexibility.

Unlike offering more delivery options, finding a POS system that supports flexible payments won't cost much extra or take up your valuable time — which is yet another top consideration for small businesses entering the holiday season.

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Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He's also a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and he has an art history book on 1970s sci-fi coming out from Abrams Books in 2022. In the meantime, he's hunting own the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.

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