Planning for Bumpy Holiday Sales

Dec 9, 2013

Planning for Bumpy Holiday Sales

Christmas can make up to 50% of a retail companies profits, more if you are in a gift / toy industry. This means that a good holiday season can be the difference between a thriving business or failure.

What if you aren’t doing well though? What if the sales that were supposed to come never did no matter what you did before Christmas? Now it’s Christmas Day and you are looking at over-stocked shelves and empty tills. Well, here are some tips to help!

Surveying the Damage

The first thing to do is determine how much you are under. How much money do you need?

The second step is to define whether it’s an issue of cashflow or stock. Often, it’s a little of both, but if for example you have $50,000 worth of extra Christmas stock, your problem is very different from a business that just needs another $50,000 of gross margin.

Third, if it’s a stock problem, define what kind of stock you have. Are you over-stocked on bestselling items that will sell throughout the year? Or are you over-stocked on holiday-only items – products that if you don’t move in the next 2 weeks, you won’t move for another year (or ever).

Determining The Sale

At this point, the question is the type of sale you will have. A sale to new or infrequent customers can help increase your immediate revenue without hurting future revenue. The structure of your sale depends on your needs as determined in the first section.

If you have an overstocking problem, buy one, get one free sales are extremely useful. You need to move product and as such, breaking even on cost is the most important aspect. Drive sales across the board for your business with lower free shipping thresholds or free gifts at specific order amounts or specific quantities of products.

If you have a cashflow problem, this becomes trickier. You need to keep your gross margin high, so you can’t afford to discount too much. This is when it’s good to know what stock you want to sell at a discount. At this point, sales of ‘Buy X, get Y’ free become much more common as it drives sales of higher margin items while moving stock that you don’t need.

Another method of driving margin / cashflow now is to look at selling delayed gift cards – selling gift cards at a lower face value than they are worth that are usable at a later date (e.g. $75 gift cards sold at $50 but only useable in March).

Reaching Out

If you have a website, start tagging visitors to your site now for remarketing opportunities. Even if you don’t advertise to them before Christmas, you’ll want to target them right after with Boxing Day / Post-Holiday sale advertising. Use retargeting services like Perfect Audience or Google Retargetting for this.

In addition, you should have a newsletter. Make sure to create a Post-Holiday only newsletter. If you can, split the newsletter groups between those newsletter subscribers who are customers and those who aren’t. Write different copy for each of them – one focusing on the great experience they’ve already had with your company, the other on the sale of a lifetime!

Lastly, you’ll need to get the word out to the various discount websites and forums out there. Whether it’s Red Flag Deals or coupon websites, write a form e-mail / post and start sending it out as soon as possible. Individuals on these sites are ‘vultures’ who look for sales and are the perfect target market – they aren’t likely to be on-going customers so you are not affecting your customer base and future revenues and they often have funds to spare even now.

Design the Site

Remember, you’ll need to showcase the sale on your site, so don’t forget to add new banners and prompts so that customers know that a sale is going on. A front-page banner is a minimum requirement. You’ll also want to showcase the sale on category pages and the cart page so that customers who came in only for one (non-sale) product are alerted of the sale.

Post-Sale Tips

Still having trouble with cashflow? Well, this is the time to look at other options. If you are only slightly below your revenue targets, you might be able to hold off while the sales bump from post-holiday money plays out.

If you still have additional stock that you need to reduce, consider speaking with your distributors if they will take back stock. This might work particularly well with products that are evergreen. For products that won’t be taken back and that you do need to get rid of, consider liquidators. You’ll get cents on the dollar but at this point, it might be better than nothing.

About the Author: Tao Wong is the owner and operator of PDB Sales Inc. (, an e-commerce company based in Canada. PDB Sales Inc. was established in 2007 and manages multiple e-commerce websites including Starlit Citadel ( and Fortress Geek (