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How to prepare your retail store for the holiday season

October 4, 2023 | Published by Faire

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The holidays are inching closer, which means retail prep is in full swing. This year, a new survey by Salesforce shows it’s all about tapping into the power of returning shoppers: Customer loyalty is on the rise, and more than one in three holiday orders are predicted to come from repeat buyers. All it takes to entice these loyalists (and new shoppers) is a little advanced planning and thoughtful strategy—which you can start today.

Plan your inventory now 

In 2022, more than half of U.S. consumers began their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, likely spurred by early-access sales and deals for loyalty members. An extended holiday season—starting in October and continuing through the early weeks of January—is likely to repeat in 2023. To capture consumer demand, err on the side of buying your bestsellers earlier and in smaller, risk-averse quantities. 

“We order small amounts of new items early in the fall to get a sense of what customers are excited about so we have time to re-order and stock up for the holidays,” says WINK SF co-owner Marcy Israel.

Within Faire, you can look at a brand’s expected lead time (located on the brand’s shop page) to see how long goods might take to arrive. If you don’t want to rely just on preset lead times and shipping windows, you can also contact the brand directly: To message a brand on Faire, use the chat feature.

While you may want to offer holiday items in your store, it’s always wise to invest in evergreen items. Think of products you could continue selling year-round should you find yourself with overstock. This is a smart way to cut down on your holiday budget and ensure you offer products that appeal to customers shopping beyond the holiday season.

Retailer-to-retailer advice: How WINK SF preps for the holiday rush

For WINK SF co-owner Marcy Israel, the holidays are an exciting time to lean into the spirit of the season and give customers an experience to remember. A few of her top tips:

  1. Consider hosting an open house. WINK has its in early December when things are a bit more relaxed.
  2. Try to get extra help and stay open for extended hours to accommodate hectic schedules.
  3. Offer gift wrapping so when customers leave your store, they don’t have to worry about that last step. 
  4. Don’t duplicate your neighboring store’s merchandise, and if you don’t have what someone’s looking for, refer them elsewhere. A fun, vibrant shopping area keeps new and repeat customers coming back.
  5. Embrace the season, have fun, and enjoy yourself!

Get your e-commerce site ready

According to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce and Forbes, digital sales are on the rise and expected to grow 10.4% in 2023. Today’s consumers are looking for speed and convenience when it comes to holiday shopping, and an easy-to-use e-commerce site will deliver. 

From product details and photography to shipping information, now is the time to make sure your e-commerce site is up to date and easy to navigate. If you’ve curated holiday-specific collections or gift guides, make sure they’re easy for users to find and shop on your website.

Continuing a trend that started during the pandemic, 39% of customers are still looking for retailers who are able to offer the option for BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store). Salesforce reports that companies that offer BOPIS grew their online revenue seven times faster than brick-and-mortar stores that did not offer this option. They predict BOPIS will drive $28 billion in incremental global store sales. So if you plan to offer pick-up options, make sure you’ve ironed out the details for a seamless customer experience. 

Play to your strengths with holiday gift guides

Gift guides can be a powerful sales tool this time of year, especially those that might be coupled with a discounted price. Four out of five consumers said price would drive them to try a new brand or store, and 59% said better prices would motivate them to shop at an unplanned location. 

This appetite for discovery allows you the opportunity to surprise and delight customers by introducing them to unique gifts from your store. One easy way to showcase these products is by putting together a holiday gift guide.

Your holiday gift guides don’t have to consist of completely new, holiday-specific products. Instead, they can be curated in a way that best fits your catalog of products, your target customer, and their values.  
Holiday shopping guides can be broken into a variety of categories, such as gifts by hobby, lifestyle, or values. Engaged, purpose-driven customers (who buy because the brand or retailer aligns with their values) are on the rise, and they spread the word when they find something they like: 58% introduce friends and family to a new brand or retailer, and 64% often buy more than what’s on their list. These brand ambassadors are just the kind of loyal customers who are primed to spend more this holiday season.

Top holiday trends for 2023

Faire is teeming with new and notable products, from the ever-popular tinned fish to upcycled food and drink. With so many options, it can be overwhelming trying to choose which ones to sell in your store, especially around the holidays. To help you out, we’ve parsed through Faire search and purchase data to see what’s trending this season. 

  • Searches for “pickleball” grew by 424% between July 2022 and July 2023.
  • Six of the top 10 most purchased products in July across all categories were flavored drink syrups.
  • Searches for “bamboo pajamas” grew almost 600% between July 2022 and July 2023.

Read our full report to get all of the insights you need to stock your store with customer favorites.

Expand your marketing channels

Today, more and more people use social media as a tool for discovery when online shopping, with six in 10 shoppers getting ideas and inspiration from social media. In fact, between March and May 2023, more than half of consumers said they bought an item in-store that they first discovered via their social media feeds. Having a presence on at least one social media platform is likely to increase your chances of reaching new customers. 

If you’re new to social media, try focusing on just one platform first. To shape your narrative, Instagram is a popular choice among creators and customers for commerce: Build a community, partner with influencers, boost sales, and drive traffic by following our easy-to-implement tips. Video content can be especially effective: Meta’s holiday marketing guide reported that two-thirds of shoppers were inspired to buy gifts based on Reels. 

A great way to engage new customers and build strong relationships with repeat customers is email marketing, which can be another valuable tool in building your business’s online presence. If you haven’t yet, find a way to collect email addresses from your customers, whether it’s a sign-up sheet at your store or a form on your website. Templates can be a huge time-saver, and it’s easier than you think to master the nuances of what kinds of emails to send. Emailing your patrons regularly keeps your business top of mind and is an easy way to drive traffic straight to your e-commerce site. It’s also another avenue to advertise any current sales or curated holiday collections.

Create eye-catching holiday experiences

Charm your customers this holiday season by utilizing visual merchandise to create striking seasonal displays. A seasonal display indicates to customers that your store is a destination for holiday shopping, and it can entice new customers to walk through the door. 

“Consider hosting an open house,” suggests WINK SF’s Marcy. “We have ours in early December when it’s less busy so early shoppers have the opportunity to relax and see what’s new in our store.” Today’s customers are eager for unique experiences when shopping. A holiday open house can increase the time they spend in your store—and encourage them to refer your business to friends.

Whether you choose to decorate for specific holidays or simply embrace a winter wonderland theme, don’t be afraid to get creative with your in-store displays. You can also share pictures of your holiday decorations on your social media to encourage shoppers to visit. 

Many customers are ready to get out and enjoy themselves while they shop, so lean into offerings that they can get only in person, like tastings, readings, and other sensory experiences. While you can easily put a seasonal spin on these kinds of offerings, they can also act as an evergreen extension of your marketing strategy.

Marcy also suggests hiring a few extra hands for the busiest days, staying open for extended hours if you can, and offering the option for gift wrapping. “But first and foremost, have fun! This is a busy time of year, so enjoy yourself and enjoy seeing new and returning customers.”

Browse our Holiday and Stocking Stuffers Collections on Faire.

New to Faire? Sign up to shop, or apply to sell.

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