THUNDER BAY – It’s that time of year! Yuletide festivities abound as retailers, including local small businesses, ramp up for the holiday season. Even as Canadians hold on to their cash a little tighter this year, nothing beats the in-store holiday experience – a recent survey shows that 82% of Canadians plan to shop at in-store locations for their holiday purchases.
The Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC)/Thunder Bay and District Entrepreneur Centre (EC) works with small businesses to help them start-up, expand, and succeed. The Thunder Bay CEDC also partners with the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce to promote Thunder Bay’s shop local initiative. Choose Thunder Bay First is designed to keep more money in the community, creating jobs and growing our tax base.
There is opportunity for our local businesses to appeal to seasonal shoppers and gift-givers and compete for their share of that holiday spending. Here’s how your small business can position itself as a holiday shopping destination:
- Differentiate and provide exclusives
“People shop local in search of something different and one-of-a-kind,” says Donnalee Morettin of The Waterfront District BIA. “The work of our local artisans, jewellers, crafters, and designers are highly sought especially around holiday time.”
Business need to provide those unique must-have items and add to the customer experience with friendly and helpful service. Furthermore, businesses that carry exclusive items that cannot be found at other stores have a strong competitive advantage, appealing to customers on the hunt for those rare treasures.
“We carry a lot of specialty clothing lines to be able to give shoppers something they can’t get just anywhere,” says Jack Moro of JB Evans Fashions & Footwear. “We also save them time and money by matching the right item to their needs and helping them find the right fit.”
- Make over your display window
Your front-end display is some of your best advertising; tailor it to suit a festive theme and showcase new arrivals. Donnalee explains, “Lots of downtown businesses are making great use of their display windows, which really makes them stand out and shows everyone what they have to offer.”
The Loop, Canadian independent fashions, has some of the best real estate in town, and they frequently change up their display window to draw people into their store. Owners Beth DeProphetis and Alan Tocheri explain, “Over the holidays, we like to feature those real show-stopper items that people may not be likely to buy for themselves, but who might add it to their wishlist or buy it as a gift. We also showcase seasonal items, such as holiday party dresses, to meet the demands of the season.”
- Promote in-store offerings
Remain top-of-mind with your client base by advertising during the holidays. Using traditional mediums such as radio, newspaper, and television in combination with digital advertising such as social media and e-mail marketing can help you reach your target customers and entice them to visit your shop.
“We always post our new arrivals to our Facebook page, which really helps get people in the store and checking out our northern and Scandinavian gift ideas,” says Monica Penna of Nordicity.
Steve Scollie of Skihaus takes his social media marketing a step further by purchasing targeted advertisements. “I highly recommend small businesses use Facebook’s targeting options to narrow in on their demographic. It’s very affordable and effective advertising.”
- Provide great customer service and a fun shopping experience
Many locally-owned storefronts can compete in a way most big-box outlets cannot by giving clients a personalized customer service experience. For example, business owners know many of their customers by name, and some local boutiques host friends and family events where their most loyal clients are invited to receive exclusive discounts and promotions.
Jolene DesRosiers of Kitty Cucumber Children’s Boutique has accumulated generations of clients throughout her 28-years in business. “I carry quality children’s clothing and what is new, hot and trending, and do my best to make the shop welcoming to keep people coming back. Over the holidays, I get a lot of new customers who are shopping for that special gift, and I try to be extra helpful in assisting them to find the perfect item.”
Be knowledgeable and helpful in finding the right items to best serve clients and facilitate repeat buyers. Appreciating your oldest and most frequent customers is a great way to retain their business and build a great relationship with them.
- Stock, stock, stock!
Shoppers want an abundant selection to choose from when searching for the perfect gifts. Be sure to have a wide selection of items in stock that can meet different price points and satisfy the varying needs of your customer base. As many shoppers will often be buying for multiple people, they will want different kinds of gifts for each person.
Beth and Alan from The Loop say that shoppers tend to look for things that are ‘gift-friendly’ and easy to buy for other people. “Many shoppers like to gift things like pillows, hats, and scarves because they don’t have to worry about sizing. We carry many accessories and gift sets to make shopping for others easy.”
Among your inventory, be sure to stock up on gift cards or gift certificates that can be made out in any denomination, as shoppers are planning to buy gift cards more than anything else this holiday season. Gift cards make great gifts on their own but can also be an add-on. Jack Moro explains, “Gift certificates sometimes are given adjacent to another gift, so we like to offer accessories such as jewellery, wallets, and cuff links because they are a nice complement.”
The average Canadian will spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the holiday season, and your small business can capture a part of that market by catering to their seasonal demands. The Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC)/Thunder Bay and District Entrepreneur Centre (EC) work with small businesses to help them find new and better ways of marketing their products and services and getting their message heard by the right people. Our Digital Resources and Outreach service offers information, counseling, and assistance with increasing sales and boosting your bottom line through improved marketing. Call (807)625-3452 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.
The Thunder Bay & District Entrepreneur Centre (EC) is one of 56 Small Business Enterprise Centres in Ontario dedicated to helping small businesses get started, expand, and succeed. Their one-to-one business counselling, comprehensive information, consulting, and referral service make them a great ‘first-stop’ if you’re starting a business or even thinking of starting a business. The Entrepreneur Centre (EC) can assist with writing a business plan, securing funding, and marketing your business. They also provide free workshops and seminars and have youth programs specifically for young entrepreneurs. All Entrepreneur Centre (EC) services are FREE and confidential.
The Thunder Bay and District Entrepreneur Centre (EC) offers FREE and confidential services to help small businesses start up, expand, and succeed. The Entrepreneur Centre can assist with writing a business plan, securing funding, marketing your products and services, and accessing other available resources in the community. They also provide free workshops and training seminars to equip and empower small businesses to perform the best they can. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (807)625-3960 or visit www.EntrepreneurCentre.ca.