How to Plan Your Holiday Hours

business owner opening her store during the holidays

The holiday season can be an incredibly lucrative time for small businesses — especially if you’re smart about your hours during the season.

It’s a given that you want customers to be able to come in and shop during high-demand times. And if you’ve been in business through at least one holiday season, you have both sales data and anecdotal evidence that can give you an idea of what to expect at this time of year.

This information, along with other research and analysis, can guide you in making smart decisions that help you achieve your best season yet. Let’s take a look at how to create a holiday game plan for when you should open your doors.

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Review prior sales data.

Looking over your performance in past years can give you an idea of what to expect. If there were days or weekends that were particularly profitable, consider extending your hours on those days. If you felt like you were understaffed, increase the number of employees scheduled that day.

Tools like Square Analytics allow you to easily reference and compare sales information from previous holiday seasons — everything from average customer spend to most popular products — so you can use the data to tweak this year’s schedule (and ensure your inventory is well-stocked with top-selling items).

Reconsider Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

It used to be unheard of to open on Thanksgiving. Once that barrier was broken, hours started creeping up from post-dinner time to mid-afternoon and even earlier. In turn, this has sparked a backlash from companies like REI, which in 2014 launched its #OptOutside campaign. The campaign encouraged REI’s customers and employees to spend the Friday after Thanksgiving in the great outdoors instead of a shopping center.

Depending on your customer base and your business values, you might want to consider staying closed on Thanksgiving and perhaps even Black Friday, focusing instead on programs, like Small Business Saturday, that put the spotlight on independent retailers.

Team up with other local business owners.

When you’re a small business owner, there’s strength in numbers. Talk to other proprietors in your neighborhood and discuss coordinating your holiday hours. Even better, consider teaming up to plan shopping events, like a weekend where you all open early or close late.
Create a festive atmosphere with decorations, snacks, drinks, and a DJ. By joining forces with other local businesses, you can also combine your marketing efforts to get the word out to a wider audience.

Publicize your updated hours.

No matter how much thought you put into choosing your holiday hours, none of it matters unless you actually let your customers know about your special schedule. So don’t forget to update your website, review sites, and social profiles with your holiday hours.

And promote your plans — especially special shopping events — via marketing email, social media, and paid advertising campaigns. You might even incentivize customers to visit during your special hours by offering discounts and free gifts for shoppers who come in early or stay late.

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