Craft Venture: a primer for the holiday season

vintage Christmas lightbulbs from red bess bonney too

Welcome to Craft Venture ““ business and marketing tips for indie online business owners.  Like me!  Im Brenda, owner of Phydeaux Designs on Etsy and 1000 Markets, and Phydelle Designs on Etsy.  Last week, we talked about wholesale pricing, as part of our series on how to price your goods or services.  This week, we change our focus to the busiest retail season:  the holidays.

Not everyone celebrates Christmas; nevertheless, “the holidays” (e.g., Christmas) is the time of year that retailers prepare for months – sometimes years – in advance.  The famous holiday window displays in New York?  Those don’t happen by accident!  Macy’s, Saks and other stores have a plan in place long before shoppers are anywhere near ready to even think about the holidays.

We all groan over holiday decorations in the stores this time of year.  “It’s not even Halloween yet!”  But if you’re going to have a strong holiday season, you need to plan for a strong season!  It’s almost too late to make major decisions for the holidays.  But it’s not too late quite yet.  During the month of October, we’re going to crash course prep for your holiday season!

You might not be that familiar with the major dates associated with holiday shopping, and my focus here will be on the American holiday shopping customs, since I’m not very familiar with other countries’ customs.  (But please share differing customs with all of us in the comments section!)

The first big date you’ll be preparing for is “Black Friday,” the day immediately following Thanksgiving (fourth Friday of November).  Black Friday 2009 is on Friday, November 27.  Black Friday is both the start of the traditional holiday shopping season and the busiest shopping day of the year.  I worked in retail sales during my 20’s and absolutely dreaded the day after Thanksgiving – long lines of customers, a very long day for employees, and a disaster of a store to clean up when the doors were finally closed.  Many, many shoppers hit the stores as early as 5:00 a.m., for early bird special sales.

For those of us with online businesses open 24/7, our customers may start their serious shopping as early as putting away the last leftovers on Thanksgiving day.  You probably want to spend most or all of Thanksgiving enjoying your own feast and family.  So your shop should really be ready before Thursday.

Shoppers will kick back after 10 hours of mall shopping to search for that special something online, and all Thanksgiving weekend long.  “Cyber Monday” is the Monday following Black Friday, focusing on online holiday shopping.

Christmas Eve is the day and night before the big event:  Christmas morning.  Christmas Eve is always on December 24th.  Many businesses are closed, or close early, on Christmas Eve, with many people hitting the malls or online shops looking for that last gift that they need.

The day after Christmas is the biggest day of the year for returns and exchanges, and is also a great day for post-holiday sales (the other day I dreaded when I worked in retail!).  New Year’s Eve, December 31, is a special night for many, often requiring shopping for a special, sparkly outfit, along with jewelry and accessories.  New Year’s Day, January 1, marks the end of the holiday season.

In addition to Christmas, the holiday season includes other holidays and holy days.  Hannukah, or the Festival of Lights, occurs this year from sunset on December 11 to sunset on December 19.  Boxing Day occurs on December 26 and Kwanzaa starts on that same day this year.

One of the first things you really need to know for your own holiday plan is the shipping deadlines for your country’s postal system.  If you normally ship first class, will you be able to offer your customer’s priority and express shipping in December?  Will offering expedited shipping after the first class deadline for Christmas delivery extend your own holiday window (the likely answer is, “yes!”)?

Also, what will your exchanges and returns policy be?  Do you need to revise or update your policy in preparation for the holidays?  Now’s a great time to do so!

Are you going to offer gift wrapping?  Are you changing your packaging for the holidays?  If so, do you have the new packaging and/or wrapping supplies that you need?

And, what’s your marketing plan?  Have you lined up the ads you need?  Do you need a new banner to give your shop a holiday or winter flair?

This week is a primer for the holidays:  an overview of the basics.  Next week, we’ll talk about shipping, including international.  If you’re not shipping globally right now, you should be able to after next week – we’ll take the mystique and fear out of shipping abroad!

Is this your first holiday season or are you a seasoned veteran?  If the former, what are you hoping the most to learn from this series?  If the latter, please share a few tips and tricks with the rest of us!

Image credits: 1.  Vintage Christmas lightbulbs from Red Bess Bonney too

1 comment | Click here to reply

[…] starts this week.  Are you ready for the holidays?  Do you understand some of the basic terminology and dates?  Did you read up on international shipping and you’re now ready to expand your business […]

paper n stitch – Craft Venture: holiday marketing on the web - A daily dose of handmade, design, and style inspiration
Leave a reply