Every big retailer gets an enormous amount of attention when releasing its holiday plans, seasonal hours, and anything else related to Black Friday (which in many cases starts on Thanksgiving). That's not something a small business owner can compete with, and you shouldn't try.
The big boys have an edge when it comes to the traditional kickoff to the holiday season, and smaller retailers -- even really successful ones -- lack the resources to keep up. You can't out-advertise the big-box stores, nor can you compete with them in most cases on price or convenience.
What you can do is leverage your strengths. There are things you can do that bigger players can't, and there are ways to make Black Friday an event for your customers.
Play to your advantages
As a small business owner, you know your customers on a personal level in a way that big-box retailers don't. Figure out what they need or want on Black Friday. Would they like it if you open on Thanksgiving? Do they want special deals? Could you offer snacks, coffee, or clean bathrooms as a way to give your most loyal shoppers a respite from the craziness?
Maybe your best customers are the type who like the mad rush of Black Friday, and they want you offering the best deals possible. It's also worth considering that your customer base may want to shop at the mall or big boxes on Black Friday, but want to know your holiday deals and special items so they can budget for later in the shopping season.
Communicate well and often
It's easy for any shopper to get swept up in the emotion of the season and end up with purchases that were not planned for (and maybe aren't needed). Your goal as a small business owner isn't to take all of someone's holiday budget, it's to make sure you get your appropriate share.
Email your customers before and during the season. Update your social media and your website. Make it very easy for your customers to know your plans, and solicit their feedback.
Be open and approachable
Big retailers expand their hours during the holiday season, and you probably should, too. At the very least, don't close at a set hour. If customers want to shop, let them. The same is true in the morning. If you're setting up and people are outside the door, let them in.
You should also remember that the holiday season often brings people to your store who are not regulars. They may be shopping for a loved one or just branching out. Welcome them in, show them around, and make them feel like part of the family.
Put your best foot forward
This is the time of year when big retailers pull out all the stops, and you should do the same. It's very important to double down on the things that make your business different from major retailers. In most cases, that means making sure you offer personal, top-notch customer service.
People have a choice on where to shop. Make sure that you give them every reason to come to your store and to come back when the season ends. This isn't just a time to grow sales, but also one to build your customer base to sustain you for the next 12 months.
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