By Nicole Leinbach

Stores everywhere anticipate the holidays with enthusiasm for sales, yet not always for the work involved. After all, countless things must be accomplished to achieve a successful — and profitable — holiday season.

A store’s to-do list begins long before the holidays arrive. There are many variables to manage. These include sourcing festive and on-trend inventory; identifying holiday promotions; incorporating omnichannel selling techniques; and considering holiday gift wrapping, store staffing, extended store hours, and more.

To help ensure your store lands on the holiday’s good list this year and not the bad list, consider the 10 tips below from industry leaders.

This article is from the October / November 2022 issue, which is a special holiday preview issue. To read the entire issue and browse through hundreds of holiday-themed gifts, click here. To sign up for advice articles delivered free to your story eight times a year, plus a preview of hundreds of new products, sign up for Smart Retailer today.

1. Make an Impact

“Consumers shop with businesses that are aligned with their values. Select a charity to support for the holiday season and donate a percentage of sales or product. Throughout the holidays, people are looking for ways to give back to causes, so it can be good for business to help consumers purchase with purpose. Partnering with a charity can boost sales and expand marketing opportunities.”

Kerry Bannigan, Executive Director
Fashion Impact Fund •

2. Prioritize Customer Connectivity
via Social Media

“With social media being highly saturated during the holiday season, what you need to do is stand out, humanize your brand, use best practices, and use advertising. To stand out from your competition, use unique content such as tweets as posts or relevant memes to connect with your audience. Next, humanize your brand by showing up in videos talking to the camera and showing behind-the-scenes (BTS) moments from your store. While you’re creating unique and humanized content, be sure to also use best practices by posting consistently, use lots of engagement stickers in your stories, and use only three to five hashtags in your captions. Lastly, you want to make sure to use Facebook Ads Manager to always advertise your most recent posts to get the most out of your content. Happy posting, retailers!”

Steph Bechard, Digital Strategist & Community Manager
Crystal Media •

3. Prep Your Email Blasts in Advance

“The holidays will be busy, so make sure you schedule out all of your holiday emails in advance. Start with Nov. 25 for Black Friday through New Year’s. So many retailers forget to do this when they have the time to be creative. Give a call to action (CTA) on all of them, offer helpful tips for gifting versus just providing sales and coupon details. Plus, make sure you inform your crew what you are promoting as well, so they aren’t caught off guard. Communication to your customers via email is essential, as is communication to your team on what to expect during the holidays.”

Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor

4. Spy on Your Competition

“Let’s face it. Amazon is your competition. To help see what inventory is being sold for what on Amazon, use AMZ Alert to spy on price changes, promotional offerings, and other surprises that your customers may also be seeing. Using AMZ Alert, you can be notified immediately when your competitor changes price or runs out of stock. This allows you to adapt quickly and intelligently to changes when top competitors make their own changes.”

Clayton Atchison, Community Ambassador
Carbon6 Technologies •

5. Nurture Your Customer Data

“I’ve created numerous businesses both online and offline in my career. It always astonishes me how valuable a customer list can be. While most retailers are primarily focused on new traffic and creating transactions, we’ve always focused on building a relationship with each customer. Historically, 41% of every dollar we’ve sold in all our businesses has come from existing customers. In my book Private Label Millionaire Secrets, I discuss creating a ‘mafia offer’ that compels your customers to opt in to a list that delivers more value and a better user experience. We’ve done it for almost every retail category out there, so don’t assume that your business is different. We’ve been able to remarket to our past customers via email, text, and social media to create a windfall of additional revenue without adding expenses that simply wouldn’t be there without a list. Get started building a list today! You can use SMS text opt in, email submission, QR codes, or any other platform. Just get started right away. For a cheat sheet, see to see how we do it today. Good luck!”

Shawn Hart, Co-Author of Private Label Millionaire Secrets
Post Purchase PRO •

This article is from the October / November 2022 issue, which is a special holiday preview issue. To read the entire issue and browse through hundreds of holiday-themed gifts, click here. To sign up for advice articles delivered free to your story eight times a year, plus a preview of hundreds of new products, sign up for Smart Retailer today.

6. Consider Where Your Customers Are

“‘Location, location, location’ was always the mantra in retail. Today, there are many locations that matter to sell to customers all over the U.S. and the world. For small to medium-sized retailers, one to three brick-and-mortar stores, if you don’t have your Amazon seller account, get it now. Sell your products using the same name as your brick-and-mortar storefront on Amazon. Use Amazon as another source of marketing and store name recognition. Your local customers can see your products on Amazon and come to the store and vice versa: your customers can come to the store knowing that they can also buy your products with the largest retailer on earth standing behind you. Yes, Amazon will want a significant percentage in order to sell products on its ‘platform.’ However, the growth in your sales, the sheer volume of sales that you can do on Amazon, should make up for the higher cost. This holiday season, consider it your goal to increase your sales volume to lower your costs of goods and focus on the goal of retail — selling your products to consumers, wherever they may be.”

CJ Rosenbaum, Attorney & Partner
Rosenbaum & Segall, PC

7. Tap Into Customer Emotions

“Brick-and-mortar retailers are the best at delivering a great customer experience and love making sure their customers get just what they need. For the holidays, it is especially important to capitalize on the emotion because so much of the buying is for a friend or loved one, and your customer wants it to be special. The challenge for this year is that now that supply chain woes have eased up some, the bigger stores have plenty of merchandise to put on sale and compete on price, but don’t dismay. Tap into that emotional buying phenomenon, and don’t forget to market to the idea of self-gifting. Consumers buying for themselves as they shop for others has never been higher. Help new customers discover you by working with other businesses in your area to potentially display a complementary product. Do you have comfort and wellness products? How about showing a basket of products on the counter of your local gym? Happy holidays!”

Vicki Cantrell , CEO
Vendors in Partnership •

8. Bundle, Collaborate, Plan

“With a tricky economic backdrop, people will be looking for inspiration and ease when it comes to holiday shopping. Think of ways you can bundle products to create thoughtful pairings that are tastefully thematic. These can be products or services you solely offer or a combination of surprising strategic partnerships with like-minded and complementary brands. Competition will likely start early again with big-box retailers starting sooner and sooner, but shoppers will still be looking for those authentic, local options — make sure that is part of your story. Also consider staffing challenges and consider bringing in support sooner and really make them part of your focus and empower them to be true ambassadors for your store. Lastly, collaborate with your surrounding neighbors, organize incentives to support each other, cross market each other, and amplify each other’s presence. Make your block a must-visit destination in itself for holiday shoppers.”

Melissa Gonzalez, Principal at MG2 and Founder of The Lionesque Group

9. Experiment and Expand Beyond Your Normal Routine

“Be innovative and creative this holiday season. Remember this is an important time to plan, prepare, and promote. Weave small tests into your assortments. Did you notice a spike in sales for one of your more obscure categories? Did you sell out fast on something and forget to reorder it? Expand and experiment with a few new vendors and products; surprise your customers with something new and see how they respond. Whether they are in your store or online, we have made it super easy for our customers to shop the web or in person. So don’t forget about Cyber Monday and certainly don’t forget about Shop Small Saturday. Have your online bundles ready and your store and community events planned to the T! This is a time of rejuvenation, collaboration, and fun.”

Amy Loewenberg, Senior Relations Manager
NY NOW, SF NOW, American Handcrafted •

10. Plan for Slow Days

“Unfortunately, there may be days that, despite your best planning efforts, store traffic simply isn’t what you want — or need — it to be. These days should be thought about in advance so you can prioritize this time. Have plans in place to call regular customers for holiday check-ins, create social media videos or go live on social media to encourage sales, incorporate store maintenance best practices for your team to keep up with, expand selling avenues with select marketplaces or your own online website, and interact with potential customers online. There should never be a moment when your team doesn’t know what to do. With expectations set for both you and your entire staff, the holiday season can be successful even when the unexpected occurs.”

Nicole Leinbach, Founder & Author
Retail Minded & The Independent Retailer Conference •

Finally, take the time to celebrate your hard work and the work of your team as well. Offer employee-boosting experiences that are festive and fun to help keep your team’s stamina strong throughout this busy time of year.

Plan these well in advance so everyone can plan to attend — even if it is simply doughnuts from a favorite local shop before store hours or a pizza party at a nearby restaurant where everyone can relax and (finally) sit down. ’Tis the season of festivity, so be sure to celebrate your store and your team as well.  

Nicole Leinbach is the founder of, a well-respected retail industry resource that has been recognized worldwide for its leading business insight since 2007. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, the UK’s Telegraph, CNN, the Today show, and countless other industry resources. Additionally, she has supported American Express’s Small Business Saturday as a spokesperson and is the author of the book Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business, published by McGraw-Hill. With a core concentration on small businesses and independent retailers, Leinbach welcomes you to connect via Instagram at @RetailMindedWorld and Twitter via @RetailMinded.