September 7, 2011

Business Basics: Holiday Prep

As a small business owner, the 1st few years are filled with a considerable amount of trial and error. Especially when it comes to the holidays and appropriate preparation. And, as I have learned, it is never too early to start thinking about the rush of holiday sales :)

As Gingiber is now entering its 3rd season of holiday sales on Etsy, I thought that I would share with you 3 tips that I have learned and put into practice that have made me feel like I am working smarter, not harder :)

First here's a little recap of my first 2 years of selling:

2009- I was still creating the Gingiber brand. I still had not focused in completely on Nursery Decor, so my product offerings consisted of reindeer holiday cards (check out this old blog post about them!). I eagerly waited for the sales to come pouring into my shop, but by the end of the season, I had sold only 1 set of cards! Talk about a sad face :(

2010- I realized I needed to have a few signature Gingiber Holiday items: a Calendar and a Handmade Stocking. Having had a dismal preceding holiday season, I cautiously printed 6 of my Gingiber Owl Calendars and sewed 4 Gingiber Reindeer Stockings. I remember telling Nathan how thrilled I would be if I could sell what I had on hand..... who would have known that by the following January, I would have sold 200+ calendars and 30 handmade stockings, plus a countless number of prints!

So what happened between year one and year two?

1. Better Product Photography
Product photography is not one of my strong suites. Let me show you a product photo from my 2009 holiday products (I am so ashamed! Poorly lit and a bad angle!):

The next year, I almost made the same mistake!

After seeing my product images, my smartypants hubby suggested I retake the photos outside in natural daylight. He was right! Within a day, product began to sell! And by golly, it never let up again until the following January!

Now I still have TONS to learn about product photography. But at least now my photos are slightly more attractive :)

2. Stock Up on Shipping and Production Supplies in Bulk
I was so thrilled with Gingiber's holiday success! Yet I was constantly playing catch-up: Waiting to produce product until it was ordered. Paying extra on the shipping of paper and ink and packaging supplies to keep up with the demand. etc. If only I had simply dreamed bigger and ordered my supplies in bulk! I would have saved hundreds of dollars for rushed shipping on packaging and production supplies.

These are my favorite online suppliers for purchasing in bulk:

This year, I set a business goal of increasing my holiday sales by 40%. So I have already purchased enough paper, ink, print sleeves, backing board, bubble mailers, and business cards to help me reach that goal. Often the Unit Price is much less expensive the more you purchase. And, by only paying for shipping once, I am already saving some moolah! (Plus, a lot of these stores run great discount codes that can help with the bottom line).

And if I don't sell as much as I had hoped, I am still stocked up on business essentials to help me through the rest of the year.

3. Start Holiday Production Early
Etsy sends out a "Holiday Boot Camp" e-mail to help stores get ready for the rush of holiday sales. And every single e-mail says the same thing: Start Early!

I have been working on designs for this holiday season for a few months, and even have a "Holiday Preview" section in my Etsy Shop already. My goal is to have all my my holiday items photographed and listed in my shop by the end of September. That way, product is available for the thousands of holiday guides that are being put together both online and in print magazines.

I also have been mass producing and prepackaging and putting away as much product as possible. My office looks like a factory right now! Since I am having a baby in November, my ability to produce product on the go will be greatly diminished. Hopefully (fingers crossed) by working ahead, I will be able to simply drop my product in an envelope and ship it! Great time saver :)

Hopefully these tips will help you feel more prepared for your own holiday rush!