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Advice from 8 shop owners: holiday sales prep

Earlier this fall we spoke with the people behind successful online businesses. These guys represent people with a few thousands to a few tens of thousands of sales per month. Regardless of what stage you’re at in your online business, you’ll find some valuable advice below.

We asked them two questions:

(1) Do you do anything special to prepare for Christmas sales?

(2) What’s the 1 piece of advice, when prepping for Christmas sales, you would give to other online shop owners?

Here’s what they have to say:

Gift with purchase. I do a gift with purchase, take awesome photos, and have bloggers reblog! So if they buy a minidress, using a certain code they get free panties! It works.

-Rachael McCary with

[We’ve written about pitching blogs before. See: 4 brilliant ways to use your top sellers and increase sales]

Take a stock of best-selling items and make them in advance.

Do the prep work for items that can’t be made in advance. For example my dresses are custom made so I can’t make them in advance but I do make the appliques and accessories that go with them so the total work on each dress during holidays is much lesser and my turnaround is faster.

Stock up on supplies. I don’t want to run out of my key supplies in the middle of a sales season and having to scramble to source them.This also includes shipping supplies.

Talk to potential help. I don’t hire help usually but this time I have talked to a couple of people already so if I have more work coming in, I could ask them for help. This includes both people to help for shop and also help with household stuff so I can focus more on business related activities.

Reserve the two months for business only and decline any social invitations etc.

-Anshu with

My plan:
Stock twice as much inventory as normal

Have an order list ready of high demand items

Liquidate anything that doesn’t sell by the end of January

-Shopify User

Buy supplies four to six months before Christmas. The closer you get to Christmas, the harder it is to find the things you are looking for. My advice: Plan ahead, but don’t spend so much time planning you don’t have time to execute and have an opportunity lost. It can take time for your listings to gain traction on Etsy, so start posting your Christmas listings months before Christmas because people are looking then too. Might get some early Christmas sales.

– Jamie Kirk with

I try to build my inventory a little at a time so that I am not rushing at the last minute trying to keep up with orders. Also I put together gift collections. Since my products are consumables I like to put together grouping of generous sized samples that can either be stocking stuffers or gift based items If you can make items that are holiday themed, for example, I do Pumpkin Spice Lip Balm.

–Tina B. with

To me, it’s all about supply and inventory. I stock up on basic shipping supplies and materials for my products. I make more of the trending items for the year, and make sure to have common holiday colored/themed items available, and promote on social media like crazy.

– Ann Girard-Leon with

It is absolutely imperative that a shop owner stock up on new designs or creations months before the holiday season starts to insure there’s a wide collection of goods to select from. There is nothing worse than shop owners offering 20 items in their store when online holiday sales reach up into the millions on Etsy, plus it’s not a good idea to limit the customer’s selection to few items since most shoppers really don’t know what it is they are seeking. Sometimes, a customer looking for a cute cameo necklace in your shop may also see that stunning photo art pendant you produced and decide to add it to their shopping cart.

Never and I mean “never” lose track of items listed for sale especially around the holiday. Sometimes sellers forget what they have listed in their shop or misplace items. It can create a devastating domino effect of bad reviews and sharp decline in sales.

Set up coupon codes. These codes are very helpful to both the buyer and seller. Buyers enjoy receiving discounts and sellers can pull in clients by offering a sweet deal. Some shops display their discount code in the shop announcement area on their page while others use social media outlets, so it’s best to look around prior to making a purchase. PIFS will be offering a coupon for 20% off on one item starting one month prior to Christmas and an additional 10% off for anyone who is referred from your blog.

My advice: be over-prepared for high sales, keep record of all items listed, offer coupon code discounts and advertise like it’s the last holiday you’ll ever see.

– Levi Lancaster with

You should have your annual business plan in place that you are executing against, and cycles should have already been consumed by Marketing to plan out the messaging and campaign strategy for the holiday seasonality of your unique business. Your fulfillment and CS teams should have every process documented and scrutinized for efficiency. Ensure that every role is defined; documentation is critical – so if you do have to scale with seasonal temp employees they have accurate materials to learn from quickly.

To answer your question, the #1 piece of advice, start with process. Know and document your process inside out and backwards. Another tactic, is to build transparency into your business now, use social channels to communicate your operational status. Tweeting “Higher than normal order volume, all orders are still being fulfilled within 8 hours as per policy”. This kind of messaging will go a long way to establishing happy repeat customers.

–Shopify User


Thank-you to all the fantastic shop owners that spoke with us.

 -Divya, with Now In Store


Missed our previous Holiday-Sales Prep posts? Read these:

Learn How to Wholesale for Christmas 2014 

The Ultimate Guide To Getting More Holiday Sales

Holiday Tips – How to make your product stand out during the holiday season


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