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Deb Neuman Deb Neuman
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'Tis the season

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It creeps up on me every year: the holiday season. Wasn't it just the Fourth of July? The first clue that we are entering the stretch that extends from November through early January begins with the delivery of Christmas catalogs to my mailbox, followed by the appearance of holiday wrapping paper at the grocery store and then the realization that I need to book travel plans if I want to spend the holidays with my out-of-state family and not spend a fortune.

Now that Halloween has passed and the first snow has made its appearance, it's time to start gearing up for the season. If you're a business owner and you count on holiday sales, now is the time to be gearing up for what is projected to be an 'OK' season. According to the National Retail Federation, 'The 2011 holiday season can be summed up in one word: average. On the heels of a holiday season that outperformed most analysts' expectations, holiday retail sales for 2011 are expected to increase 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion. While that growth is far lower than the 5.2 percent increase retailers experienced last year, it is slightly higher than the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 2.6 percent.' According to the NRF, continued high unemployment is a huge contributor to this forecast.

There is some good news. 'Retailers are optimistic that a combination of strong promotions and lean inventory levels will help them address consumer caution this holiday season,' said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. 'While businesses remain concerned over the viability of the economic recovery, there is no doubt that the retail industry is in a better position this year to handle consumer uncertainty than it was in 2008 and 2009.' In other words, retailers have made the adjustments necessary to ride out this uncertain economy.

Every business is unique, as is every community. You may experience a very strong season, while the business next to you may not. You can't control the economy, but you can control how you adapt to it and adjust your business practices. Consumers will spend money this season - maybe not as much - but they will spend. You want to be the business they spend it with!

If your business relies on holiday sales, now is the time to be sure you're prepared for the season - because it's here now! The number one thing you can do to ensure that you fare well is to offer the very best customer service and experience possible. Start now by reaching out to your regular customers with holiday events and specials. Get them in your business sooner rather than later to do their shopping. Offer the best prices, the best quality and the best experience you can. We as consumers may not have as much coin in our pockets to spend this year - but we will spend. Now is the time to reach out to us to spend our coin with you! 


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