With the end of the year comes the busiest shopping season. As a retail business owner, it can be easy to find yourself overwhelmed. On average, the holiday shopping season accounts for 20% of annual retail sales. Combine that with the stresses of an approaching new year, and it’s easy to see how owners can overlook essential details when planning for the holiday season. 

Experienced retailers understand that the secret to a successful winter season is preparation. Use this guide in your year-end planning to ensure you successfully transition into the new year with confidence.

Planning for staffing over the holidays

Holiday hours and schedule 

During the holidays, your staff may change their availability. Some workers will request time off to be with their family or go on vacation while others—such as students on winter break—may have more availability than usual.

As an owner, you’ll also need to determine the holiday hours of your business. Will you be staying open late? Will you have business hours on Christmas Eve? Determine and communicate your holiday store hours months in advance. 

Seasonal staffing 

The winter season is often the busiest time of year for retail. For workers, this means more customers, longer hours, and more sales. Going into the holidays, business owners should assess their expected staffing requirements.

Many retailers find it necessary to hire seasonal workers. If you haven’t hired seasonally before, it’s easy to establish employee responsibilities with an Employee Contract. Before you bring on extra workers, offer the additional hours to your part-time staff. This may prevent you from hiring unnecessarily—and your team will likely appreciate the extra hours. 

Holiday bonuses and events

The holidays are a great time to show your staff members how much you appreciate them. It’s common practice to hold a staff party for your workers, and there are many ways to throw a successful holiday party.

Smaller companies might take their staff out to dinner while larger companies organize something more elaborate— like a banquet or group activity. As an owner, you also need to consider things like holiday bonuses. If you can’t provide bonuses for your employees, consider a thoughtful gift instead. 

Employee and performance reviews 

Many businesses provide feedback to employees as they progress into the new year. While this isn’t a requirement and is not necessary for a company’s success, it can be a great practice to initiate. Employee Evaluations help keep your employees engaged with their work and keep you engaged with your employees. 

Staffing forecast for the new year

Take a look at the year ahead. If you are planning on expanding, this may require additional staff. Depending on the nature of your expansion, you could be in a position to hire a specialized individual that meets your growing company’s needs. Perhaps a dedicated purchaser or marketer would free up your time as an owner and allow you to serve your company better.

Read more: What to Consider When Applying for Jobs Over the Holidays

Preparing your office space or storefront for the holidays


You may need to prepare your store or office for the winter months. If you rent your space, that responsibility may fall on the building manager. Your Commercial Lease should note what maintenance tasks are your responsibility. Preparing your space for winter not only protects your space and merchandise but also keeps your employees and customers safe. Keep in mind that you are often responsible for the safety of  your parking lot and front sidewalks. 


Most businesses invoke the holiday spirit in hopes of increasing sales during the winter months. To stay competitive during this busy time of year, consider what displays, social media advertising, and on-site decor you can use. Creating a warm, seasonal atmosphere will encourage customers to shop. You may choose to offer services such as gift wrapping, as well. 

Forecast for the New Year

Take a look around your space—what are you hoping to accomplish next year? Planning to expand your business can be both exciting and stressful. Use this time to evaluate the changes you’re hoping to make in the upcoming year. If you plan on renovating or moving into a new space, this is a great time to determine your next steps. It’s easy to become blind to faults, so you may want to consider hiring a consultant to assess any missed opportunities. 

Read more: Winterizing Your Rental Property: A Guide for Landlords [Infographic]

Utilizing seasonal marketing and sales 

Marketing and sales

Customers spend more money around the holidays. With so much competition this time of year, business owners need to plan their marketing and sales ahead of time to stay competitive. You need to order extra or seasonal inventory well in advance. You should plan any seasonal marketing campaigns well ahead of time to allow for proper promotion. Appealing to customers through discounts helps  customers budget for holiday purchases. 

Seasonal policies 

Stress levels run high this time of year. By planning your holiday policies ahead of time, you can save your staff from unnecessary stress. Exchange/return policies and shipping dates should be adjusted for the holidays to keep your customers happy. For example, will your business accept returns the day after Christmas (which also happens to be the busiest shopping day of the year)?

Forecast for the New Year

The year-end is a great time to take a step back and evaluate your marketing and sales of the year. What changes do you need to make heading into the new year? It might be time to look at—and maybe even redo—your Business Plan. Take time to identify your sales goals and create a business plan that reflects the direction you want to head. 

Year-end financial overview 


With tax season just around the corner, the end of the year is a great time to start collecting and organizing your records in preparation. It’s a good idea to consult a tax lawyer or an accountant about your tax strategy. You might find that changing your business structure to a corporation (if you haven’t already done so) can save you tax dollars. 

Profits and losses

Now that the year has come to an end, it’s time to evaluate your revenues and debts. By taking a look at your cash flow statement, balance sheet, and income statement, you can assess your business’s performance over the last year. Based on this information, you can have a much clearer understanding of how to budget for the upcoming year. 

A happy holiday for small business retailers

As you’re preparing for your busiest time of year, consider this guide’s suggestions and ensure that you are ready for the shopping season ahead. Don’t forget to take a moment to enjoy the season, though. Take time to be grateful for how far you’ve come and the people that have helped you get there.

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