How 3 Small Businesses Are Preparing for the Holidays

Small businesses must be able and willing to think creatively and pivot quickly to make up for lost revenue during the holiday season.

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3 small business owners share their tips and strategies for a successful holiday sales season

Many small businesses, especially retailers and restaurants, rely on December sales to boost revenue for the year. But the pandemic and its accompanying economic uncertainty mean the holidays could look very different this year, particularly for brick-and-mortar businesses who need to consider their employees and customers’ safety.

Fortunately, if 2020 has taught small businesses anything, it’s the value of creative thinking and a willingness to pivot. Those qualities could be especially valuable during the upcoming holiday season.

We talked to 3 small business operators about how they’re gearing up for the holidays.

Fortunately, if 2020 has taught small businesses anything, it’s the value of creative thinking and a willingness to pivot. Those qualities could be especially valuable during the upcoming holiday season.

Pure Glow in Massachusetts 

Pure Glow specializes in organic custom spray tans, LED light therapy, and infrared sauna treatments. Founder Lauren Rampello said summer and wedding season (from about March to October) has traditionally been their busiest time, but business also picks up around the holidays when people want a beachy glow for parties and other events.

The company’s 2 Boston-area studios have reopened for regular business hours, but on fewer days each week. While some customers still prefer an in-studio experience, Rampello said they’re seeing an uptick in demand for their at home products such as sunscreens, exfoliating mitts, and a bronze touch-up mist.

Pure Glow had always had a product line to support their in-studio services. However, during the pandemic, they launched an online store and began promoting these products with demonstration videos and other content about the products’ benefits. “We’re focusing on education around how to use the products,” she said. “We’re hoping that that really takes us into the holiday season and beyond.” While she feels the products could have appeal as a holiday gift, she also hopes that customers will treat themselves, too.

Customers can purchase their products in store, but Rampello said they’re focusing on ecommerce with $4.99 flat rate shipping. As December approaches, the company plans to promote shipping deadlines for specific holidays so they’re “making sure that we’re exceeding clients’ expectations,” she added. Refocusing on products over in-studio services was challenging at first, but Rampello said they’ve gotten great feedback and a willingness to pivot was key to their success.

Twin Cities-based bakery The Cookie Cups has also leaned into products versus in-store experiences at its 2 locations. In addition to selling sweet and savory “cookie cups,” the company used to offer cooking classes and birthday parties. Once the pandemic shut down in-person classes and parties, owner Nicole Pomije began thinking about ways to replace that revenue. Her solution? Shippable, shelf stable baking kits that give families The Cookie Cup brand experience at home.

The first 2 are a pizza-making kit and a unicorn baking kit that makes 24 mini-sized cookie cups. Both kits come with aprons, baking pans, ingredients, and other supplies. They sell their kits via their website and third-party platforms such as Etsy. If those 2 kits sell well, they plan to add more SKUs. “We’re figuring out this whole marketing campaign gearing up for the holidays this year,” she added. The larger bakery location has become their in-house co-packing facility.

Local pickup is available or customers can have the kit shipped. “You could send your cousins in Arizona a kit to do and you guys could do it together on Zoom,” said Pomije. “We’re giving them something they can do with their friends and family over the computer.”

The Cookie Cups also offers local delivery through third-party apps including DoorDash and Grubhub. Pomije used to run Facebook and Instagram ads for their cooking classes, so she’s used that same approach for the kits. So far, it’s paying off. “It’s bringing people to the website to purchase a baking kit, and they’re ordering party packs and other things to pick up in-store and be delivered locally too,” she said.

Dough in Massachusetts

Dough is a marketplace for products from hundreds of women-owned businesses, so cofounder & CEO Vanessa Bruce has visibility into how her company and many others are preparing for the holidays around the country.

“By the 2nd week of December, you need to have it all wrapped up if you’re choosing to shop small.”

Increased demand for shipping in the month of December could delay holiday gifts purchased online, so Bruce said they’re emphasizing shipping timelines on their website. “We’re making sure people know ‘this is your last day to order from a small business and get it in time for the holidays,’” she said. “By the 2nd week of December, you need to have it all wrapped up if you’re choosing to shop small.” Once shipping deadlines arrive, she recommends that businesses promote gift cards instead of physical products.

With increased interest in shopping local this year, Bruce said they’re building more of a local shopping experience on the website, including plans to add filters for city and state so that customers can support businesses near them. Some of Dough’s brands offer curbside pickup for local customers and in warmer states, outdoor markets and pop-ups shops are supplementing the online shopping experience.

Dough is also doing online pop-up shops and collaborations “so we can bring that physical experience digital.” A recent pop-up in honor of International Day of the Girl featured the founders of several intimate apparel brands sharing selfie videos and part of the proceeds went to support a charity that provides bras and feminine hygiene products to homeless women. “We’re working on more collaborations with fellow and like-minded brands to create interactive Zoom events and QVC-style videos,” she added.

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