7 Holiday Tips for Small-Business Owners
By and large, Wilson says, major retailers have been increasingly aggressive with sales and promotions this year to expand their business. Big chains such as Wal-Mart offered free shipping and price match guarantees during the peak of the shopping season, while others, including Kmart and Best Buy, extended Cyber Monday deals into a weeklong bonanza.
"In 2008 and 2009, the great deals offered by the major retailers basically came from desperation. Retailers were scared they had too much inventory and not enough consumer demand," Wilson says. "But this year, the bigger retailers have mostly regained their health and are mainly discounting their items as a means to grow their business."
While this may be great for consumers searching for bargains, it presents a potential obstacle for smaller stores who can't offer such deep discounts and whose yearly profits may depend largely on healthy holiday sales.
"It's really challenging," says Rhonda Abrams, a small-business columnist for USA Today and president of the Planning Shop, a publishing company with resources for business owners. "Take free shipping as an example. It's become something that shoppers are looking for and being offered constantly by big retailers, but small businesses just don't have the profit margins to do that."
Largely in response to the difficulties small businesses have faced this year, companies such as Facebook and American Express partnered to encourage people to shop locally by promoting Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday during Thanksgiving weekend to raise awareness of America's small businesses.
"Small Business Saturday was created in response to small-business owners' most pressing need: more demand for their products and services," the companies said in a press release.
Tens of thousands of small businesses signed up for the event, and more than 1 million people "liked" Small Business Saturday on Facebook, which undoubtedly raised consumer awareness for shopping at local stores. But when you consider that Target alone has more than 3 million fans on Facebook, it's clear small businesses still have their holiday work cut out for them.