Setting Extended Christmas Shopping Hours Now For Small Town Business Success

by Joanne Steele on September 21, 2009

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Dickens Village #1
Creative Commons License photo credit: kevindooley

We are talking about the Holidays right now to ensure a great Christmas season this year for small town businesses. In recent posts we have covered planning and marketing successful small town Christmas promotions.

Christmas hours for small town businesses is where the rubber meets the road, so it deserves a post if its own. A beautifully decorated rural community with shoppers wandering the streets… and all the stores closed is too common a sight.

For Chambers of Commerce, remember your mission to promote success for your businesses and economic development for your town. Set Holiday event dates and activities to support your mission.

That means working with your members and also non-members who have downtown businesses to learn how they want to handle Christmas hours.

Poll visitors now to see if they would return for Christmas events. Find out about days and hours they would be in town shopping and dining. Share this information with your retail and dining businesses. Give them a copy of your survey to use to poll their own customers.

Set events and activities AFTER you have secured the support of your retail and dining members for extended hours during the days and times of your events. Remember, if you attract droves of people to your town with a fabulous event, and no business is open to benefit, your event is a failure!

For businesses. Sales statistics say that retail businesses receive 40% of their income during the Holiday season. After talking to numerous small town retailers, I believe that figure is significantly smaller for rural communities, but the opportunity is there.

In a past post, I talked about setting business hours to meet customers’ needs. See Setting Retail Hours in Tourism Towns

The Holiday season presents its own set of complications. Locals leave town for the box store deals, weather can scuttle the best planning, great event ideas to draw in visitors are sometimes poorly planned or marketed etc. Add to that the costs of being open regardless of whether you have customers or not, and the temptation is to plan to turn the lights out and lock the door.

If your town has a traditional Holiday event, arrange to support it by being open. Check now to be sure that marketing of that event is well planned. Refer the organization handling the event to the previous posts on Christmas events on this blog if you feel they need support.

Survey your customers now to see if they might return for Christmas events and shopping. Poll locals as well to determine when they would most likely be shopping in town. Share this information with your Chamber and other retail businesses.

You don’t need a huge sample and a formal written survey. You can ask a few customers a few questions as you’re checking them out. Asking every third customer over a weekend or two can give you an adequate sample.

Use your past experience with extended Holiday hours to inform your decisions this year. But be cautious about using the old phrase, “We tried it before and it didn’t work.” The details of your past experience can provide information needed to create a success this time.

Extended Holiday shopping hours are a risk and also an opportunity.

  1. Work together with other retail businesses and your Chamber to make a plan.
  2. Find a few extended hours, dates and times a majority can agree on.
  3. Plan any events and Holiday activities around those dates and times.
  4. If you are just getting started on this year’s plans, keep them very simple to ensure success.
  5. Expect success and work for it.

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