Gear Up Early for the Holiday Season

Inventory, shipping, and marketing strategies for small garment businesses

Happy Holidays! What? It’s only July. Yes, it is. And yet, I’m here to suggest that if you want to have your best 4th quarter holiday season without all the headache and heartbreak, you should start looking at your plan now.

The holiday season, with its festive cheer and potential for increased sales, is a crucial time for small businesses, especially in the garment and personalized products industry. A well-thought-out approach encompassing inventory management, customer shipping policies, and marketing can make the difference between a stressful scramble and a rewarding period of growth. Here are three specific areas to focus on before the calendar rolls to September:

Plan your inventory early

The inventory planning process can be challenging, especially given recent supply chain issues. Preparing for the holiday season months in advance can mitigate potential problems and ensure that you have the necessary stock to meet customer demands. For sublimation, you might be importing some items from overseas, or working with distributors who are importing. Anyone bringing a container over will be looking to get those on the ocean soon. So, if you want to have new items or increase your capacity for other items, now is the time to connect with your vendors.

Start by reviewing sales data from previous years to predict your customers’ purchasing trends. Also, be aware that online eCommerce sales will continue to rise. According to Digital Commerce 360, due to the pandemic, online holiday spending in the U.S. alone was around $201.32 billion in 2020, up 45.2% from $138.65 billion in 2019. 2021 and 2022 showed growth as well, and no one expects 2023 to be any different. Identify which products were holiday bestsellers and focus on stocking those items.

You can’t rely solely on historical data and overall predicted growth. You must also consider current market trends and predictions. Following fashion influencers, reading industry reports, and monitoring social media can give you insights into the upcoming popular items and colors.

You should also set appointments with your largest customers to gauge what they might expect and let them know you are interested in being prepared so you can meet and exceed those expectations. I’m sure many of them have been made aware of the supply chain issues in the past, and you should let them know you want to avoid those headaches for them by getting some forecasts.

As I mentioned, you should be working with your distributors and vendors. If the extent of the relationship you have with your key vendors is your username and password, then it is crucial to change that.

Building strong relationships with them is essential, especially in these times of supply chain disruptions. Discuss your forecasted needs and their capacity to meet them. Also, depending on your confidence level, you should have a backup plan. Find alternative suppliers in case your primary ones cannot fulfill orders due to unforeseen circumstances.

Two critical pitfalls to avoid are overstocking and understocking. Overstocking can lead to storage space issues and the risk of having to sell outdated stock at a discount. Understocking, on the other hand, can result in lost sales if popular items sell out too quickly.

Strategize your holiday shipping policies and deadlines

We’re all used to instant gratification thanks to our friend the internet. So, when it comes to shipping, customers want their goodies and they want them yesterday. That’s why getting your shipping strategy on point is super important.

Knowing when the big guys (think FedEx, UPS, USPS) have their shipping deadlines is a must. The holiday season is basically a delivery marathon for them, and you don’t want your packages stuck at the back of the line. Tell your customers when the cutoff is for holiday orders. And be clear about it; no one likes a holiday surprise that comes in January. Also, understand that while it is helpful to set an early shipping cut-off time, there is still a chance that orders will not arrive on time.

All of the major carriers discontinue any shipping guarantees during the holidays. Yes, they will still charge you for overnight shipping; but if it doesn’t arrive on time, they tell you they’re sorry and that’s it. No money back; they tried their hardest.

Different people have different needs. Offering multiple shipping options can make your customers feel like they have a choice. There is good money to be made from helping last-minute shoppers. I have seen people willing to pay three to four times the cost of the item just to get it rushed to hopefully arrive on time.

Just be careful of any guarantees you make, and make sure you are clear on the rush charges versus the upgraded shipping charges. Many customers don’t understand that it might take you a few days to produce something on top of the shipping time. In many retail gift customers’ minds, production and shipping times are the same thing.

Let’s face it; we’re all a little guilty of adding an extra item to our cart just to qualify for free shipping. There’s something about the word “free” that makes us feel like we’ve scored a deal. And that’s exactly why offering free shipping can be a smart move for your business.

From a customer’s point of view, free shipping eliminates a perceived barrier to buying. No one likes to see their total jump up at checkout because of unexpected shipping costs. By offering free shipping, you’re giving customers one more reason to click that buy now button.

But remember, while it’s a win for customers, you need to make sure it’s also feasible for your business. Consider setting a minimum order value to qualify for free shipping. That way, you’re encouraging customers to buy more while offsetting some of the shipping costs.

Also, don’t forget about the packaging as you prepare for the holiday season. Think about using sustainable materials for your packaging, as many shoppers will be looking for that. Sustainability continues to be something more and more people are demanding with their dollars. Customers are becoming more eco-conscious and are likely to appreciate brands that share the same values. Choosing biodegradable or recyclable materials can send a strong message about your commitment to the environment.

Of course, the main job of packaging is to keep your products safe. Be sure that whatever you choose is sturdy and can protect the contents inside. Lastly, don’t forget the unboxing experience. Maybe you can add a personal thank-you note or a small freebie. Or perhaps you could wrap the products in tissue paper with a branded sticker. It’s these little touches that can make your customers feel special and increase the chances of them coming back for more.

By providing free shipping and crafting a memorable unboxing experience, you’re not only improving your customer service but also setting your business apart from the crowd. And that can make all the difference during the competitive holiday season.

Craft an engaging marketing plan

As you work on a killer marketing plan that’ll make you shine brighter than the holiday lights, think about spicing things up a bit. What can you do differently this year that you have not tried in the past, and how can you amplify what has worked for you previously?

Creating a powerful marketing plan is not about copying what has worked for someone else. It’s about understanding your ideal customers, having clarity on the brand and values that attract your ideal customers, and then marketing based on those values and ideal customers.

Since you are working on this early, you can have a plan to hit all the major shifts in the holiday season, from Black Friday to Small Business Saturday to Cyber Monday. Plus, you will be ready for those last-minute shoppers and have the perfect promotion and content to help them pull the trigger and get their gifts on time.

Due to the extra time you get from thinking ahead, you might want to consider finding some influencers to partner with. They can give your products a shout-out and help spread the word, and you will have time to iron out the win-win-win agreement and get products in their hands so they can create the content for their followers. Remember, the key to all of this is starting early. You want to be the early bird that gets the worm, not the one that’s scrambling at the last minute.

It’s time for small businesses, particularly in the garment and personalized products sector, to gear up for the holiday season. You now have some practical tips on planning inventory, crafting effective shipping policies, and developing engaging marketing strategies to lead to a successful and stress-free holiday season.

Aaron Montgomery

Aaron Montgomery

Our Success Group

Aaron Montgomery is certified by New York Times best-selling author Jack Canfield as a Success Principles Trainer and has nearly 30 years of experience providing essential support to small businesses. His company, Our Success Group, assists with setting and reaching goals, creating a solid business plan, knowing their numbers for a better pricing strategy, and establishing a customer-focused approach while devising a targeted marketing strategy. He is the author of the business foundation book ‘The FUNdamentals of Business Success.’ He is the Co-Founder of a facilitated 6-month Mastermind collective called Radical Goal-Getters. You can also find him hosting a weekly show called Small Business Saturdays and co-hosting the 2 Regular Guys Podcast.

View all articles by Aaron Montgomery   Visit Website

Related Articles

Back to top button