The holiday shopping season unofficially starts in October. In making holiday plans for your business, keep these key dates in mind.
The holiday shopping season unofficially starts in October. In making holiday plans for your business, keep these key dates in mind. (Credit: MaxPixel)

Holiday sales are expected to grow, so be prepared.

If you’re planning to take a vacation or travel to see family at holiday time, it’s a good idea to book now. But even more important, if the holiday season is an important sales period for your business, now is the time to get started. It’s predicted that holiday sales are expected to grow 3.7% over last year and, for the first time, reach $1 trillion.

Watch the Calendar

The holiday shopping season unofficially starts in October. But even in the summer months, there are Christmas-themed items for sale at retailers. In making holiday plans for your business, keep these other key dates in mind:

  • November 28 is Thanksgiving and the start of holiday discounting (although some discounting usually begins before this day).
  • November 29 is Black Friday, which is the biggest shopping event of the year, with in-store retailers having greatly extended hours and holiday discounts. One source is predicting a 25% increase in online spending from the last Black Friday.
  • November 30 is Small Business Saturday, which is a movement to encourage consumers to shop locally at small businesses. According to an NFIB/American Express survey, 104 million shoppers spent $17.8 billion on this day last year.
  • December 2 is Cyber Monday; a day of online deals and sales.
  • December 3 is Giving Tuesday and kicks off the charitable season by encouraging to donate time, money, and goods to worthy organizations.
  • December 9 is Green Monday; one of the biggest sales days of the year (green refers to money and not the environment). It isn’t a designated day, such as Small Business Saturday, but historically it’s been a day for significant sales revenue.
  • December 14 is a critical shipping day to ensure delivery before December 25. It’s the last day to ship by USPS Retail Ground, FedEx Ground, or UPS Ground.
  • December 20 is another critical shipping date. It is the deadline for USPS Priority Mail, FedEx 2 Day, and UPS 2nd Day Air.
  • December 22 is the first night of Hannukah.
  • December 25 is Christmas Day day when in-store retailers are closed.
  • December 26 is Boxer Day in Canada and a public holiday when most stores are open and sales abound.
Budget for Marketing

How are you going to market yourself? What can you afford to spend on your marketing activities? These are key questions you need to answer now so you can get started and be prepared throughout the holiday season.

In making your plans, keep some key points in mind:

  • Consumers don’t like to pay for shipping and, in some cases, want things immediately. This translates into consumers opting to buy online and pick up in-store, or BOPUS.
  • Paid searches drive revenue. Factor in the cost of paid searches in your marketing budget.
  • Special tools can enhance your online marketing results. Microsoft’s Audience Network, which uses audience and intent data, AI, and more, increases the reach of your advertising campaigns. Enable Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) in your Microsoft Advertising campaigns. DSAs help customers find your products or services by automatically targeting relevant search queries based on your website content. You can get free marketing materials for Small Business Saturday from American Express.

[Related: Is Your Business Ready for a $15 Dollar Minimum Wage?]

Plan to Hire Help

If you expect to require additional help for the holidays, make your hiring plans now. Kohl’s began its holiday hiring in July. With the unemployment rate low, expect to have trouble finding the people you need for the holiday season. Be sure to budget for payroll expenses. GlassDoor can help you determine what hourly rate to pay your seasonal staff.

Final Thought

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” –Mark Twain

Take this to heart: If you want a successful holiday shopping season, begin now.

[Related: Why Empathy is a Must-Have for Future Business Leaders]

Barbara Weltman is the founder of Big Ideas for Small Business, Inc., which publishes Idea of the Day. She is the author of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2019 and other books that inform the small business community of tax, financial, and legal information they should know about.