The hillsides are announcing the last quarter of the calendar year by showing the burnished bronzes and golds of autumn. Have you taken a moment to review how profitable your year has been so far? And how do you plan to push toward ending on a strong note?
For many businesses, the last quarter of the year presents the opportunity to increase sales and profitability. Businesses aligned with seasonal and holiday markets, of course, look toward this quarter as an important cash generator. Even if your operation does not link directly to the holidays, however, you can plan for capturing some of the fall retail enthusiasm by preparation and creativity.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), “Holiday retail sales during November and December (2016) increased four percent over 2015 to $658.3 billion,” exceeding NRF’s forecast of $655.8 billion. The number includes $122.9 billion in non-store sales, which were up 12.6 percent over the year before.
While sales predictions may be more subdued this season, consumer confidence, especially in non-store sales, seems to be where consumers are showing strong interest and energy. The Federation also pinpoints late autumn as one of the strongest shopping seasons as consumers gear up for holiday festivities.
To capture this last quarter consumer confidence, review all of your promotional and marketing plans to find niches best suited to your business. If online sales sagged a bit in late summer, use your creativity to promote seasonal opportunities and reserve or special products and services. If you have a marketing club, this is the quarter to encourage renewed member participation in the form of referrals and gift packages. Use parallel promotions for onsite as well as online ordering. It may seem strange to forward market at this point, but don’t rule out giving consumers a glimpse of what you have planned for next year as well. If you will be offering new product varieties, have special events planned, will be changing hours or adding new services, let buyers in on the plans to spark continued interest and visits.
Prepare for last quarter sales before the busy season by checking with your wholesale and retail outlets now. Plan for anticipated sales with what packaging, transportation and inventory you may require. Match those needs with labor requirements and family plans. Families with businesses may feel the stress of seasonal expectations and workloads. Know what you are capable of handling during these busy times and what jobs you may need to delegate.
Train your staff to discuss the special seasonal offerings you will have, promote sales and continue to deliver exceptional customer service. Especially at this time of year, customers are in a hurry to get all their holiday plans in order. They will expect prompt and helpful service with a smile. Employees need to be prepared to go above and beyond in responding to and resolving customer concerns.
In all promotions, remember to feature the unique benefits of your product or service and the story behind them. This is the season people search for meaningful life stories and offering your own history helps consumers understand and appreciate the “why” behind your operation.
The first chill of fall is in the air and the last quarter of the calendar year is upon us. This is your opportunity to work toward a rewarding and profitable season to end your year on a strong note. It takes time, ingenuity, creativity and a spirit of resolve, but the next few months can also launch your business toward a profitable finish.
The above information is provided for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business and legal counseling.