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Five tips to help you prepare for the busy holiday season

Five tips to help you prepare for the busy holiday season

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Five tips to help you prepare for the busy holiday season

The busiest shopping season of the year is mere months away, making it the perfect time to start ramping up your business for retail’s hot gift-giving period. Read on for five major tips on how to make the most of the upcoming peak season – or any busy period – straight from Nate Ertl, Senior Director of Inventory Management – Target, Target Accelerators alumni Kiran Khaliq, Founder and Creative Director of Create & Crescent, and Stefan Miller, CMO, Co-Founder of Young King Hair Care, who’s also a Target Forward Founders Founder in Residence. 


1. Ramp up Early 

When it comes to planning, time is of the essence. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to prepare for the holiday season months in advance.  One of the most valuable – but accessible – tools any founder can leverage during the planning process is a business journal with observations, ideas and thought starters from the prior year. Additionally, Nate suggests using a good old-fashioned calendar for tracking key dates and milestones – all the more helpful when planning large-scale campaigns and initiatives. 

Kiran agrees, noting that the early bird’s eye view of milestone dates is a big help when it comes to advertising and marketing strategies. “You have to build anticipation to your biggest offers and deals of the season,” she says. “Focus less on sales in October and more so on list-building and engagement to warm your customer base up for what is to come in November and December.” The same approach holds for financial planning too. “By analyzing our sales from the preceding years, we preemptively prepare for the surge,” says Kiran, who counts a fluid project management calendar as particularly helpful in planning for her business, whose products focus on lunar calendar holiday celebrations. 

2. Tap into Holiday Trends 

Trend forecasting can be a tough exercise, so as a first step, make sure to review your historical trends or projections. Nate recommends spending time with Google Trends in order to effectively use search volume index and graphical data to inform your peak season plans. “Start by choosing the most relevant search term to your product or brand,” he suggests. Nate also recommends leveraging insights from Civic Science, a consumer analytics platform, explaining “it does a great job of keeping a pulse on general public sentiment.”

3. Create a Stress-Free Customer Experience 

You might be feeling the crunch, but it’s important to never let your shoppers get a glimpse of the sweat behind the scenes. Ensure your customer service helps shoppers get what they need – and easily – by automating your customer service, says Stefan, who recommends Gorgias to manage incoming customer service inquiries. “By adding automation, we have lowered our open tickets by 85% by quickly getting consumers what they need and being able to get to the higher priority tickets faster,” he notes.   

Stefan also suggests taking the same approach with back-end operations. He and his team focus the majority of their efforts on supply chain support strategy and support, with the ultimate goal of ensuring their supply chain processes don’t experience any unexpected disruptions. One tip to help make sure your plans go smoothly? Ensure you have the right routines in place, including regular meetings to discuss crisis management. By focusing on problem-solving early in the season, says Stefan, “We know as a team know how to handle a disruption, as opposed to having to produce a solution in the moment.”

4. Invest in Team 

One of the best things you can do as a founder is prioritize transparency and collaboration with others on your broader team who are interested in your success, Nate says, noting “Develop an expectation or forecast for your sales, and share it with your suppliers. If you’re selling through other retail stores, partners or marketplaces, talk to them too.” With the common interest of making sure your inventory moves, early, collaborative discussions about what you need or what’s working – or not – will help your partners learn “where they need to lean in,” he says. “Business is a team sport.” 

Another must? Remember the holidays can be stressful inside and outside of work. “Take care of your people with gratitude,” says Nate. “Everyone wants to be part of something awesome, but sales and profit aren’t the measure of a person or their effort.” 


5. Prioritize Well-Being 

Now that you’ve thought about the process, operations and your team, what’s left? Don’t underestimate the importance of self-care as the season ramps up. “While the company prepares for the busy season, it’s equally crucial for me, as its leader, to brace myself,” says Kiran. Self-care, she notes “ensures I’m mentally and physically ready for whatever comes.” Stefan agrees. “Founder health is often the most-neglected, yet the most important part of the business,” he shares. “You have to pour into yourself before your pour into your business and team.  

Below, are his top tips for rounding out a thoughtful self-care routine:  

  • Founder Health Fridays: “Every second Friday, I completely turn off, and don’t do any work – think email off, computer shut, and phone on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ Find whatever gives you peace and tranquility to rebalance!” 
  • Walking Meetings: “I try to take 60-90 minutes a day on a walk to recharge my battery and get out of my office and into the world. Being in nature and away from technology helps my mind to slow down and gives my brain creative freedom.” 
  • 30 Minutes of Entrepreneurial Reading and/or Podcast: I use this time to remind me that while it’s a hard journey, others that I may or may not know are on the same road. I try to take away one skill that I can apply to be more efficient and effective with my time.” 

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