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Cash flow is a well-known challenge for retailers. The holidays may be your biggest revenue period, but a small business loan could make your holiday season even brighter.Bob Phibbs is renowned as The Retail Doctor. He says “When it comes to cash flow at the end of a year for most retailers, it is very easy to be overwhelmed. December has different issues than November’s cash flow; it’s the time of year that your cash flow peaks but there are a number of other season-specific problems which stores face.” He lists seven:

  • Double payroll
  • Double shipments
  • Extended hours
  • Use up more supplies
  • New employee retail sales training
  • Bulk of your year in sales
  • Theft (internal and external)

You may need a short term small business loan to keep things running smoothly.

Writing for The Balance, Susan Ward says it’s all about sales. “Children may dream of sugarplums,” she says, “but for retailers, there’s only one vision that matters during the run-up to the Christmas holidays; the sales graph. And as the Christmas holiday season is make or break time for many small businesses, the overwhelming question is how to get more sales and make that graph climb as steeply as possible.”

So how can you maximize revenue during this critical season?

HERE ARE A FEW TIPS:

  1. Start with an arresting window display. It has to be simple yet bold to catch the eye of distracted passersby.
  1. Hold mini-events such as brief product demonstrations.
  1. Impulse purchasing now accounts for about 40% of retail sales. Shoppers are always open to suggestion. And nothing says “impulse buy” like the holidays. Shoppers are deliberately looking for impulsive gift ideas. It’s time to put every bit of your visual merchandising savvy to work, so you can maximize sales and revenue. Aside from eye-catching displays, you can feed your customers’ impulsiveness by creating a sense of:
  • Urgency – with daily or even hourly special discounts.
  • Value – buy-one-get-one and bundling are great options here. Pre-packaged baskets or stacks of items are a real crowd-pleaser with busy holiday shoppers. As a side note, lower-priced impulse items sell best.
  • Excitement – novelty items work well, especially this time of year.
  1. Keep that inventory moving. Merchandise that isn’t selling is money you can’t use. You want to get rid of sales slowpokes and holiday-specific items before they land on post-season clearance shelves. Try one (or all) of these ideas:
  • Feature them as impulse buys. Display them at your cash wrap, adjacent to related, well-selling merchandise, or in other strategic locations such as end caps.
  • Bundle them with popular complementary merchandise. Shoppers love value-added options.
  • Mark them down. Feature them as a daily special.
  • Give them away. Use them as a gift-with-purchase
  1. Sometimes your sales predictions are wrong. If something is selling hotter than expected, you may want to order more rather than lose late-season sales. If you can get more. A merchant cash advance is a type of business funding that gives you cash right now, so you don’t miss a beat. Payments are tied to future credit card sales.
  1. Stay on top of your finances as well as sales. Sure, you have a lot more cash coming in the door during the holidays. But you have more expenses, too, as Bob Phibbs notes. Especially those extra sales associates out on the floor helping customers. Or extra call center agents fielding orders via phone and email. Yes, you’re beyond busy. But if you let your finances get out of control now, you can damage your ability to grow next year. Instead, do these two things:
  2. Monitor income against projections. Are you meeting your daily and weekly goals? Consider last-minute options to boost foot traffic and in-store and/or online sales.
  3. Monitor expenses against expectations. Creeping expenses can sabotage your profitability. Consider whether you need to cut costs.
  1. Take every opportunity to capture email addresses from holiday customers. Send them last-minute holiday offers and market directly to them in the coming year, to build repeat sales.

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL STARTS IN JANUARY

“The holiday season provides a much needed influx of cash into your business and cash flow worries seem to disappear,” says Bob Phibbs. “Nevertheless, the end of the year or first week of January is the prudent time for the savvy retailer to prepare for some upcoming bills.”

If you’re struggling with cash flow issues, you need to get a handle on that. Better cash management will help your retail business thrive in every season. You’ll be able to stock up and staff up for next year’s holidays.

In retail, you’re always operating ahead of the current season. You need to order inventory months in advance – usually in late summer and fall for the holidays. But that’s a notoriously slow time for retailers. A small business loan can provide the working capital to finance your inventory. That also protects your cash flow, so you can pay your regular bills.

SAVING MONEY IS A SURVIVAL TOOL

Review your merchant card processing program, because even a tiny reduction in fees could have a significant impact on your retained income. Here at United Capital Source, we may be able to put you in a program with double benefits. You could save money on fees and get the money from your transactions faster. Shortening that purchase-to-income cycle boosts cash flow, too.

Do you carry customer accounts for large purchases? Review these, too. Be sure you’re collecting money in a timely manner. Offering installment payments can give your store a marketing advantage. But are you sure the time you spend on billing and collections is worth it? You might be better off with a small business loan called factoring. You can sell your receivables to a lender, and let them handle collections. You’ll get most of your money right away. You’ll receive the rest (minus a fee) after the lender collects from your customers.

The holidays are not a stand-alone event. They’re the Big Finish of your business year. So plan ahead. Improve your cash flow. And get the right small business loan when you need a boost. That way, you’ll not only survive but thrive, all year long.

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