Tag: holiday shopping

How Small Businesses Can Prepare for a Unique Holiday Season

When the famous ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve and 2020 officially began, few people might have anticipated what awaited the world in the months ahead. By the end of March, a global pandemic had changed the way people across the globe lived their lives as governments scrambled to prevent a potentially deadly virus from spreading. No aspect of life has been left untouched by the COVID-19 outbreak, including how people shop. Stay-at-home measures and government-mandated closures proved a formidable challenge for small business owners. Another challenge awaits such businesses this holiday season, when consumers are expected to do much of their shopping online.

Many small businesses thrive on welcoming customers into their facilities. While no one can predict how long social distancing measures will remain in place, it’s reasonable to assume that consumers may be hesitant to visit stores en masse this holiday season. But the spirit of the holiday season will return, and that spirit will still compel consumers to look for gifts for their loved ones. Small business owners looking to capitalize on the holiday shopping season can try these strategies as they prepare for what promises to be a unique final month of 2020.

• Start early. Holiday promotions typically feature discounted items, and small business owners can hit the ground running by announcing sales well in advance of the holiday season. Consumers have adapted to lengthy delivery times during the outbreak, and retail analysts predict many will begin shopping earlier than ever before to account for potential delivery problems. By discounting items early, small business owners can put themselves in position to capitalize on early bird shoppers.

• Keep sales going. The Bureau of Economic Analysis noted that economic growth in the United States declined by 5 percent in the first quarter of 2020, and in June the Congressional Budget Office predicted that growth would ultimately decline by 38 percent. Such figures suggest that money will be tight this holiday season, and small business owners can expect to compete for every dollar. By starting sales early and keeping those sales going throughout the holiday season, small business owners can put themselves in the best position possible to capitalize on consumer spending, however limited that spending may be.

• Apply past experiences. Small businesses have had more than a few litmus tests to gauge consumer behavior during the outbreak. Easter marked the first major holiday to occur while stay-at-home restrictions were in place, and since then retail holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have come and gone. Small business owners can examine consumer behavior during past retail holidays to inform their approaches to the coming holiday season. If consumers expressed a desire for gift packages that reduced their need to make multiple shopping trips, small business owners can design and promote gift baskets filled with an assortment of products available in their stores. Creativity figures to be a necessity to attract customers this holiday season, and past retail holidays can inspire a new approach.

Small businesses can confront the challenge of the coming holiday season by embracing a handful of strategies to attract consumers during what promises to be a season unlike any other in recent memory.

The History of Black Friday

Black Friday marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Come Black Friday, shoppers strive to get the lowest prices on gifts for their loved ones. Much of the focus of Black Friday is on finding the best deals, but it can be interesting to take a breath and learn how this phenomenon developed and how it has evolved over the years.

“Black Friday”

The term “Black Friday” was originally associated with gold prices and manipulation on the part of speculators Jay Gould and James Fisk. This scandal occurred in September 1869. Commodity prices plummeted 50 percent as a result, and the term “Black Friday” was coined to refer to that drop. The phrase “Black Friday” also became famous for all the wrong reasons in 1966. Philadelphia police used it to refer to the Friday traffic jams and crowding in downtown stores from tourists and shoppers who flooded into the city in advance of the Army-Navy football game held the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year. Bigger crowds and rowdiness contributed to long hours and stressful shifts for local police.

Black Friday Reinvented

The retail industry started using the term “Black Friday” in the late 1980s. Spin doctors turned previously negative connotations into positive ones by associating the phrase with stores turning a profit and moving accounting ledgers from “red to black” thanks to big year-end sales. Retailers and consumers rallied around low-cost “doorbusters” and other discounted prices. Interestingly enough, according to the National Retail Federation, Black Friday really hasn’t been the most lucrative day for retailers over the years. In fact, greater profits and larger crowds are often seen on the last Saturday preceding Christmas.

Shopping Weekend Evolves

While Black Friday may have been the catalyst, in recent years shoppers have made the entire weekend of Black Friday a lucrative one for retailers. Many stores now open on Thanksgiving and extend sales through the entire weekend. Small Business Saturday and Sunday promote patronizing mom-and-pop stores. Cyber Monday emerged when online shopping became a popular way to grab deals, and it marks the close of the opening weekend of the holiday shopping season. In 2017, Black Friday weekend attracted 174 million shoppers who spent an average of $335.47, according to the NRF.

Experience Gifts Are Out-of-the-Box Exciting

The holidays are a season for decorating, entertaining and, of course, figuring out what to get all of the special people on gift lists. Instead of navigating crowded stores to find a gift that may just take up space in their loved ones’ closets, more and more people are giving the gift of an experience.

According to Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, new belongings will only be exciting at first, but then people adapt to them. If shoppers’ goals are to prolong those feelings of excitement, then personal experiences can be more effective than material goods.

When shopping for those who seemingly have everything, a gift of an experience may be a smarter choice, especially if the experience is something the recipient may never have done before or wouldn’t think to get for him or herself. For those who need a little inspiration, the following are some ways to treat loved ones to special experiences.

· Wine tasting: Find a local winery that offers tours and other wine-tasting experiences. Many areas of the country not particularly known as meccas for wine are still homes to local wineries. Treat a loved one to a day at a nearby winery or vineyard, bringing along some snacks, such as bread and cheese, to pair with the wines.

· Fitness class party: Enable fitness enthusiasts to try out new and trendy exercise classes by giving the gift of a class or membership. Consider tagging along to a class so the recipient doesn’t have to go it alone.

· Head in the clouds: Book a trip aboard a sight-seeing plane, balloon or helicopter for the high-flying thrill-seeker on your holiday shopping list. Contact a nearby airport or sightseeing company to find out what is available. Some tours circle national monuments and points of interests, providing more bang for the buck.

· Action and adventure: There’s adventure to be had on land as well. Racing fans can sit behind the wheel of a race car and lap the racetrack like their favorite NASCAR® stars. Those who prefer getting a little wet with their wild may enjoy a whitewater rafting excursion.

· The choice is theirs: If you’re stuck on what to get, let recipients choose their own experience. Companies like Cloud 9 Living enable individuals to choose their experiences from a wide variety of options.

Giving experiences can equal a year of entertaining and enjoyable memories for gift recipients.
 
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Travel Gifts for the Holiday Season

Vacations create memories that last a lifetime. But across North America, surveys indicate that fewer people are cashing in on all of their vacation days. Some may be too busy to travel as much as they would like, while others might not be able to afford to travel. A gift of travel removes much of the expense of traveling and can serve as a catalyst one needs to go and explore.

Escaping to warm climates can be just what the doctor ordered when winter weather sets in at home. Although that first snowfall can make for a picturesque holiday season, there’s a good chance that after several storms and navigating icy roads, a getaway to sunshine and sand can help beat winter blues. When gifting travel this year, consider these great places to travel in January and February.

· Anguilla: Anguilla is a British territory in the Eastern Caribbean, just east of the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s known for its long sandy stretches of beach and pleasant winter temperatures, which average 83 F. There isn’t much hustle and bustle, so this island destination can be the ideal place for relaxation.

· Australia and New Zealand: January and February are summer months in the southern hemisphere. These vibrant countries offer everything from costal charm to remote plains.

· Costa Rica: An abundance of wildlife, unspoiled beaches and rain forests draw visitors to this Central American locale. Travelers can hike active volcanoes or surf warm turquoise waters. The “dry season” arrives in December along with moderate temperatures.

· Honolulu: The weather in Hawaii tends to be beautiful year-round, but February can be an especially good time to travel to this U.S. island chain. Travel & Leisure says that hotels often slash their rates by up to 40 percent in February. This makes it much more affordable to gift a stay in Honolulu.

· Orlando: While holiday crowds peak in November and December, visiting Orlando and its main attraction, Disney World, is much easier when the crowds thin out in January and February. The slower season means affordable hotel rates and shorter lines for attractions.

· Montreal: Those who don’t want to escape the snow but embrace it might find a vacation in Montreal a welcome diversion. This cultured city offers Old World charm plus modern amenities.

· Puerto Rico: American travelers can vacation in Puerto Rico without needing travel visas or passports. While all of Puerto Rico is a sight to be seen, the capital of San Juan has thriving arts and culture.

· St. Martin: Also known as St. Maarten, this paradise offers two different cultures for the price of one. The island shares French and Dutch territory status. Visitors who like to eat well and party into the morning often find St. Martin an ideal destination.

Gifting plane tickets, hotel reservations or upgraded meal plans can make winter vacations that much more enjoyable.

Set and Stick to Your Holiday Budget

The chance to give gifts and spend time with loved ones makes the holiday season a special time of year. But for many people, the holiday season often leads to overspending.

A 2016 survey from the American Research Group found that American shoppers anticipated spending an average of $930 on gifts that holiday season. Data from T. Rowe Price confirms that parents are spending between $400 and $500 per child each year. In 2015, CPA Canada conducted a random phone survey of 1,004 adult Canadians and found the average adult planned to spend $766 on holiday gifts.

Although these numbers can reflect an overwhelming sense of generosity, many times excessive spending is based on a desire to outdo gifting from the year prior – sometimes at the risk of personal finances. Some people are taking drastic measures to make holidays over-the-top, with some delving into emergency savings while others withdraw prematurely from retirement accounts. Budgeting for the holiday season can help shoppers keep their finances in check.

Determine spending patterns

An examination of receipts and spending habits from previous holiday seasons can help individuals establish budgets for the current year. Make a list of all expenses – even the ones that extend beyond holiday giving. These may include expenses such as gym service fees, homeowner’s insurance, traveling expenses, gift exchanges at work, and more. Extra costs can add up and should be factored into holiday budgets.

Try to recall if your spending last year felt comfortable or if you were paying off credit cards long after the holiday season had ended. If it’s the latter, resolve to make adjustments.

Establish a budget that fits

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all budget. Figure out if there is extra money this season or if times are tight. This will help you plan accordingly and avoid overspending. Shifting priorities can help free up some cash. If children are interested in this year’s hot (and likely expensive) gift, cut back on holiday travel or entertaining. Instead of buying gifts for coworkers, buy a drink during a night out.

Use the holidays as an opportunity to sell

Collectibles, gently used toys, video games, action figures – all of these items may be collecting dust at your home, but they might be coveted by other shoppers. Rely on the season for spending to make some extra income that can be cashed in for your own holiday purchases.

Set up an account and track spending

Establish a separate account strictly for holiday spending. This can include a credit card only used for gifts and entertaining or a savings account at a bank or credit union. You won’t know what is going out of your account unless you keep careful tabs on it. Tracking spending is the biggest key to sticking with a budget, according to the financial advice group The Balance.

Holiday budgeting can be challenging. But with some effort, it is possible to avoid debt and still enjoy a happy holiday season.

Gifts for Avid Hunters, Anglers & Outdoorsmen

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services’ 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation unveiled that more than 90 million United States residents aged 16 or older participated in some sort of wildlife-related activity that year – the most recent year on record. Wildlife recreationists spend nearly $150 billion per year on their activities. With this in mind, those who have hunters, anglers or outdoorsmen on their holiday shopping lists may find that gifts facilitating these specific pursuits can be the ideal fit this holiday season.

Rather than scouring the mall for hours, a visit to the nearest sports outfitter can yield a bevy of appropriate gift ideas. For some inspiration, consider these gifts for the outdoor enthusiast.

· Binoculars: Scoping out territory and looking for game is often part of the hunt. A set of durable new binoculars can give hunters an edge.

· Heated shoe insoles: Hunting and fishing often require long wait periods – sometimes in chilly weather. Heated shoe insoles and hand warmers can keep outdoorsmen warm.

· GPS/digital watch: Although many smartphones tell time and offer GPS services, lightweight watches may be more convenient than phones. For example, the Garmin Fenex Watch is waterproof and offers such functions as GPS, an altimeter, barometer and a digital compass.

· All-season tent: Camping out is not just a summer activity. A tent that is rated to withstand various temperatures and conditions can be an asset.

· Waders: Anglers sometimes need to get up close and personal with their prey. A sturdy pair of breathable waders is ideal for those who venture out of the boat or off of the coast.

· Wool socks: They may be a basic item, but hikers, hunters and other sports people can’t stock up enough on warm, sweat-wicking wool socks that will keep their feet comfortable and dry on all excursions.

· Folding knife: Knives are ideal for cutting fishing line, twigs for a campfire and much more. A sturdy, quality knife that fits easily in a pocket or backpack is a must-have for hunters, campers and anglers.

· Water-resistant pouch: A day on the boat or near the water requires gear that can get wet without soiling items stored inside. Choose a pouch that can fit a camera, keys, phone, and other necessities.

· Climbing stand: Hunters frequently spend time up in the trees to get a better view of oncoming game. Stationary tree stands may remain for the season, but lightweight offerings fold and can be transported from area to area.

How Being An Early Bird Can Benefit Holiday Shoppers

Come the end of the often hectic holiday shopping season, many people resolve to begin shopping earlier in the following year. While such resolutions can be hard to keep, shoppers would be wise to consider the myriad ways they can benefit by starting their holiday shopping earlier than they’re typically accustomed to doing.

Deals

The more time shoppers give themselves to find gifts for their loved ones, the more time they have to comparison shop and find the best deals. Retailers often offer steep discounts during the holiday season, but such deals may pale in comparison to those that can be had throughout the rest of the year. Holiday shoppers who begin shopping early can always skip buying in late summer or autumn if they think better deals can be had once the holiday season begins.

Shipping

By shopping early, shoppers can choose the least expensive shipping option offered by online retailers, potentially saving substantial amounts of money as a result. In addition, shoppers who start early won’t have to worry about items failing to arrive on time, a common source of stress for last-minute holiday shoppers.

Credit score

Another advantage to shopping early for holiday gifts is it allows consumers to protect their credit scores by spreading their spending out over several months instead of doing so in the handful of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In a survey examining debt associated with the holiday season, MagnifyMoney found that the average holiday debt in 2016 was slightly more than $1,000. Credit card debt can negatively affect consumers’ credit scores, especially if balances are not paid in full when bills are due. Shoppers can avoid such situations entirely by shopping early using only disposable income to make purchases instead of credit cards. Such financial flexibility may not be possible for shoppers who wait until the holiday season has begun to start shopping.

Time

Shoppers can save more than money by starting their holiday shopping in advance of the holiday season. In spite of the popularity of online shopping, many people still visit traditional brick and mortar retailers to do their present buying. Such stores can be overwhelmed with shoppers between Thanksgiving and Christmas, leading to long lines and lengthy searches for parking. Shoppers are far less likely to encounter big crowds and crowded parking lots if they get their shopping done before the dawn of the holiday season, saving themselves substantial amounts of time as a result.

Shoppers who commit to getting their holiday shopping done early can save money and time and protect their financial reputations as well.

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