10 Great Ideas for Getting Your Local Business Ready for the Holidays by Sue Pitts

The good news is that holiday spending is forecasted to increase by 4% for the 2019 holiday season (National Retail Federation). The bad news is that online shopping is becoming more and more popular and is a threat to small local businesses.

Small Business Saturday and shop local campaigns are great and a big help. But in the end, the customer is looking for the perfect gift or a special experience. Here are some tips to help you stand out from the crowd and offer a local experience that customers will not be able to resist:

1.  Decorate, Decorate, Decorate! – whether you are a restaurant, retailer or service business, turn up the volume and offer a festive experience for your customers that reflects your brand.

2.  Categorize your merchandise displays – Display items according to type of gifts your customers are looking for. Have sections for “The Perfect Gift For Dad” , “What Teen’s Want in 2019”, “Gifts for under $20.00”, etc.

3.  Be aware of holiday gifts and decorating trends – Offer these services and products to your customers. In 2019, gnomes are the new red truck. And have you noticed that Advent Calendars are everywhere? How about a 12-days of Christmas hair care package?

4.  Work with other local business to host a shopping event, contest, etc.

5.  Invite local makers into your service business – Imagine getting the perfect holiday hair cut and being able to find unique gifts made locally at the same time.

6.  Offer convenience – Online stores, major retailers, and restaurants are equipped to offer undeniable convenience. There is no reason a local business cannot compete with this. Offer online purchases from your website or an app with local store pick up, or as a restaurant, join food delivery services to offer home delivery.

7.  Up your content and social media game – Online “window shopping” is a thing. Post your gift guides and gift categories along with tips for the holidays on your blog, Facebook, and Instagram. When your customers search for these things online they will be able to find you.

8.  Consider special hours for the holidays – Big box stores always extend hours and Amazon is open 24/7. What can you reasonably do to add a bit more convenience for your customers? Maybe one evening opened later will suffice?

9.  Take advantage of community holiday festivities – Consider participating in some way. Maybe extending hours to be open during the event or participating with a pop up shop at the actual event.

10.  Collect customer information – This is valuable information to have for future promotions and next year’s holiday season. If you already have this information, check in with them and email them your latest blog posts, gift guides, and tips.



About The SBDC and the Author
The Iowa SBDC provides no cost technical service and advice for Iowa Small Businesses and individuals looking to start a business. The 15 centers through out Iowa are run by small business experts and counselors who have the experience and expertise to confidently help on a number of topics

Sue Pitts, Regional Director for the Iowa Western SBDC in Council Bluffs has been in the position since 2004. Sue has become the state expert in Digital Marketing and Website Content. She teaches small businesses on these topics on the local level as well as at regional, state, and national conferences.

Director Spotlight: Todd Rausch, Veteran SBDC Advisor

In recognition of National Veterans Small Business Week, we interviewed Todd Rausch, to ask him about his experience as a veteran working for America’s SBDC Iowa. Todd is the Regional Director for the Western Iowa Tech SBDC.

“What inspired you to serve in the military and what exactly did you do/achieve over the course of your military service?”

“I was going into my junior year of college and was broke. The recruiter offered me $5,000 (which was a lot of money back then) to join in combat arms. I chose tanks. My first unit was a Cavalry Squadron patrolling the Iron Curtain. This was the Cold War and seeing communism up close and personal made me realize the importance of freedom. I served 7 years of active duty as an Enlisted Reaching NCO. I went to Kansas State University, and served in the Kansas State ROTC and was commissioned as an Armor Officer and spent 4 years in the Kansas Guard and 4 years in the Iowa Guard.”

“What made you want to become an SBDC director?”

“I was a business owner and adjunct business instructor when a colleague let me know a position had opened at Western Iowa Tech Community College that would suit me. I did not know about the SBDC at the time. I did some research and found out how awesome the SBDC is and the rest is history.”

“How many other veterans have you helped with starting their own businesses?”

“We have helped many veterans start their business, but also assisted in expanding or improving their business. Veterans by nature are risk-takers and go-getters. We are driven to succeed and do well with developing and executing plans. Veterans also understand the value of free enterprise and the amazing opportunities we have here in the United States.”

“What’s the most rewarding part about being an SBDC Director?”

“The most rewarding part of being an SBDC Director is helping people achieve their dreams! That is what we do whether they are starting up, expanding, or doing succession planning. It is part of the American dream.”

To read more about Todd’s time working with Veteran business owners, here’s a link to his article “The Gift of the Power to Choose”: