How Local Retailers Can Prepare for the Holiday Rush

Temperatures are cooling, and retail sales are heating up. Here’s how two merchants are preparing for the busy holiday season in creative ways with free gifts, retail delivery, and more.

15 min read
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It’s officially fall and retailers know what that means: the busy holiday season is right around the corner. As temperatures cool, retail sales start to heat up. With so many holidays coming up over the next few months — including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and more — it’s a great time to lock down your plans for holiday marketing, staffing, product selection, and local retail delivery (including same-day local retail delivery), ensuring your business is ready for the holiday rush.

In this article, we’ll share best practices to help local retail stores prepare for the busy holiday season, including tips and advice from real DoorDash merchants, including Teona Miller, owner of Hair & Beauty Maze in Dayton, Ohio, and Jaime Morrison Curtis, owner of Greenwood Shop in Los Angeles, California. As you plan ahead for the next few months, use this guide as a checklist to ensure your store is ready.

1. Plan your promotions strategically

After a pandemic slow-down, consumers are ready to spend again. According to a recent Deloitte report, holiday retail sales are expected to increase 4-6% this year compared to last year, resulting in a spend somewhere between $260 billion and $264 billion. 

But this year, customers are more cost-conscious. With inflation top of mind for many of your customers, it’s important to plan your promotions strategically — everyone likes to feel like they’re getting a good deal, while also supporting an independently-owned business.

I think that the reason that customers are more reserved right now is because they’re waiting for the holidays. Don’t think that because it’s a little slow right now that it’s going to stay that way. – Jaime Morrison Curtis, owner of Greenwood Shop

Major holidays for local retail stores

Luckily, there are plenty of holidays dedicated to “savings” that you can use to promote your shop’s deals. Here are the major retail holidays to consider:

  • Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving, this has historically been a non-stop day for foot traffic, with customers seeking out specific deals they can only get in-store. More and more, this is being overtaken by online shopping and Cyber Monday.

  • Small Business Saturday: Started by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday was created as an alternative to Black Friday, putting the spotlight on small businesses and encouraging consumers to support the local shops in their neighborhoods. This is a great day to offer sidewalk specials and in-store activities like wreath-making or a canteen of free hot apple cider — anything that builds a connection with folks stopping by. 

  • Cyber Monday: One of the biggest online shopping days of the year, Cyber Monday often lasts the whole weekend after Thanksgiving, with stores offering their biggest discounts before Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. This is a great holiday for helping your customers buy their holiday gifts in advance.

Even if you don’t plan to offer holiday sales, there are other ways that you can make holiday shopping feel special for your customers. For example, Greenwood only offers one annual sale a year in July, but during the holidays Jaime makes her store even more of a place to be with free gift wrapping and festive, sip-and-shop events.

With our sip-and-shops, we’ll open the store for an extra hour and invite customers to sip champagne, listen to Christmas music, and take a class. It’s a great way to invite people in to hang out in our store and do a little shopping. – Jaime Morrison Curtis, owner of Greenwood Shop

Why it’s important to start promoting your deals early

With consumers more focused on costs this year, they’re more likely to plan out their holiday purchases in advance. For example, Google found that in May of this year, 17% of consumers in surveyed markets had already started their holiday shopping and 36% said they already had ideas for gifts they wanted to buy. 

Letting your customers know that you’re planning to launch some major deals — and sharing the exact time and date — can help ensure that your store makes their shopping list. And don’t hesitate to share multiple reminders months in advance. Here are some ways to promote your deals:

  • A simple email blast reminding customers to add your Cyber Monday countdown to their calendars — specifying how much they can save, and on what items.

  • A series of Instagram posts leading up to Small Business Saturday, sharing all of the fun in-store activities and retail item specials you’ll have available.

  • In-store signage reminding shoppers that you offer local retail delivery and to check your website for special deals. 

  • Use DoorDash sponsored listings to get your business in front of customers who are looking for what you sell. 

  • Tap into DoorDash marketing tools to run promotions that boost first-time and repeat sales.

Selling retail items both online and in-store

This year, retail shopping is expected to increase both in-store and online. Are you ready to handle the holiday sales rush on both fronts? Here are some items to check before November hits:

  • Prepare for an e-commerce boom: Make sure your website is up-to-date and ready for the potential increase in web traffic. 

  • Create a welcoming environment in person: Attract passersby with fun, festive decorations and visible signage that communicates upcoming sales and events.

  • Offer bonuses to thank your customers: Adding a free-gift-with-purchase is a great way to stand out to your customers. Teona Miller, owner of Hair & Beauty Maze, a beauty supply store in Dayton, Ohio, shares how she likes to surprise her delivery customers with a little something extra in their orders: “I really love to give back. That was my thing when I first started my business — I would always give my customers a free something, even if it was a simple thing like a comb. Because of that, I was able to drive in more customers.”

  • Streamline your online retail items: It may be helpful to trim down the options you sell online or through DoorDash. For example, Jaime notes in the product description for an incense that her team will pick the scent. Customers are able to make a request in the comments section, but this otherwise frees up her staff to make a quick decision and package up the order faster. “You really want to think about things that are easy to deliver, and that you’re going to always have in stock. The last thing any customer on DoorDash wants is for you to have to call them to confirm something when they’ve ordered it online,” she shared.

2. Get your inventory ready

As you prepare for the holiday sales rush, it’s a good idea to review your inventory. What sold well last year during the holidays? What other retail item trends have you noticed this year? Stocking up on new and unique products can help draw in new and previous customers. 

For example, some of Teona’s best-sellers at Hair & Beauty Maze include braiding hair, edge control, and wigs, which she’s planning on promoting during the upcoming holidays. “My wigs are my number one sellers — and they’re also the things that make me the most money,” she shares. “I love working in a business that’s really in-demand and essential for people’s wellbeing.”

Additionally, this is also a great time to review what hasn’t sold so well and come up with creative ways to move merchandise around the holidays. Can you offer it as a free item once a customer meets a minimum spend? Would it work well in a gift basket? Or is it simply time to price the item at clearance to make room on the shelves? However you plan to stock your store, now is a good time to review your inventory and make some strategic decisions.

3. Hire extra hands

With increased sales comes an increased need for staffing. It might be worth it to bring on a few extra seasonal workers to help you manage in-person traffic, sales, and store organization, or to prep delivery orders. 

Many DoorDash merchants we’ve spoken to recommend having one person on hand just for accepting and preparing same-day delivery orders, which can come in quickly during busy holidays, like Mother’s Day and around Christmas.

Having enough help can keep the holidays from feeling like a headache. If you don’t know enough people to bring on for the season, try asking your existing staff if they have friends who are looking for a job — or see if a regular customer might be interested. They’re people who already know and love your business and could be the perfect fit.

4. Boost your sales with same-day, local retail delivery

Just like another pair of hands on deck, DoorDash retail delivery can help you get more out the door — without a major change in your operations. DoorDash retail orders function the same as other online orders, but are often faster: an alert will come in through the DoorDash tablet, which your store can review and accept. Next, simply package and prepare the order, then hand it off to a Dasher for same-day retail delivery. You can follow the progress of your package through the app, and answer any customer questions directly.

Especially during the busy holiday season, offering ​​same-day retail delivery can prove a game-changer for many of your customers, who may be too busy to stop by in person but enjoy the convenience of getting items delivered — or sending gifts to loved ones directly through the DoorDash platform. This year, Jaime is planning on simplifying her retail delivery catalog in order to streamline operations.

What I’ve noticed is that our customers who are ordering through delivery platforms around the holidays are waiting until the last minute to buy a gift. This year, we might replace our regular DoorDash menu with a simplified gift menu featuring products that we know we have in store — gift baskets that are pre-packed and ready to go. – Jaime Morrison Curtis, owner of Greenwood Shop

If you do offer delivery, don’t forget to promote it. In addition to putting up DoorDash stickers in her store windows, Teona shared how she created her own fliers speaking directly to her customers. “My fliers say, ‘Bad weather? No car? No problem. I’m available on DoorDash,’” she explained.

Additionally, you can still use DoorDash, even if you already have delivery staff. Think of it as a way to add to your existing delivery capabilities — filling in one-off orders while your delivery truck is already on the road. While Teona has occasionally delivered orders to customers personally, she likes the convenience of working with DoorDash, especially as a one-woman shop.

DoorDash is very convenient, and the customer service is so good. They really care about the customer and the merchant. – Teona Miller, owner of Hair & Beauty Maze

5. Make time for self-care

Last but not least, don’t forget to take some time for yourself! While it’s important to get everything ready for the big holiday rush, it’s also important to take care of yourself so you don’t burn out. 

Make sure to schedule time with family and friends, and do whatever else recharges your battery — including gentle exercise, rest, getting a massage, taking a day off, or something else. You’re key to your business’s success, so take care of yourself, too.

A partner in your holiday sales success

As you look ahead, consider signing up with a partner that can help you grow your local retail delivery orders without the headache. DoorDash offers easy retail delivery solutions, including marketing tools and sponsored listings to help your business get in front of the right customers and grow your sales, all without a major change in your day-to-day operations. Learn more about DoorDash retail delivery or sign up before the holiday rush today.


Ali Cottong
Ali Cottong


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