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November 2, 2015

December and January are traditionally the bestselling months of the year for pet retailers. It always amazes me that so many retailers approach the holiday selling season so casually, without a detailed plan to take advantage of this important profit boosting period.

In my travels detailing stores, I’ve heard some smart ideas from those retailers who do gear up for holiday sales. I’m going to share their insights in the hope that this year will provide independent pet retailers a chance to make some significant profits by offering their customers more than just a discount.

Successful Sales

No one runs a sale to make their customers upset, so why would anyone just tag an item as on sale when they are actually charging the usual price? Well, apparently some do. There have been news reports on television of major retailers doing just that—and getting caught doing it by customers. To assume that your customers won’t catch a sharp practice like that is to underestimate them and it is also a business ethics no-no. Even if the savings is no more than 10 percent, always be sure that a sale is a really a sale, or you’ll alienate a portion of your customers who will in turn spread bad vibes to people they know about your business.

If you can’t discount a lot due to cash flow, it is ethical to not compare the regular price with the sale price and say ”On sale at $27.95”, even though the everyday price might be $29.95. It isn’t compulsory to point out that the savings is only $2. It is enough that there is a savings and it allows you to highlight a product or service during a peak selling season.

Everyone knows that the bigger the display the more confidence the consumer has in the products and therefore you’ll sell more of the sale items. That having been said, the best sale offers the consumer variety, such as offering all of a particular fish food line at 15 percent off. This type of sale allows the customer some choice and builds your brand—one that you want them to come back to and buy from again. That example could be used for dog food, apparel or just about any category.

Distributor Deals

A better idea to make your sale sizzle is by taking advantage of your distributor’s holiday promotions. This idea may at first glance seem counterintuitive, but if there is a hot deal on your favorite aquarium water pump, don’t just buy what you need for the week. Invest and make a real display on the shelf and pass along the savings. If you offer a great sale price on items that are popular, customers will remember and be less critical of future offerings and more likely to come back to your store for future promotions.

There are always a few retailers willing to go out of their way to talk to their distributor about out-of-the-box ideas. An example of this is finding a distributor who has overstock or discontinued items that might fit your needs, such as building out a puppy starter kit or a 15 gallon aquarium gift set. Many times items don’t sell for distributors for reasons other than quality. Even though it is policy to only include consumables that you stock in a kit, (because you’ll want customers to come back and buy more) a food dish or aquarium heater (a one-time sale) doesn’t have to be your normal stock to fill out a package. You might be able to get a huge discount to clear out a distributor’s stock on slow or discontinued items.

Social Marketing

Finally, don’t just run a sale that only customers who cross your threshold will see. Take advantage of social media. Facebook is becoming a powerful tool for any retailer. For as little as $5 a day you can advertise your sale to new potential customers. Check out Power Editor and build your Facebook following. If you use Facebook’s paid advertising program—even if your Facebook page following isn’t large—you can target all the zip codes around your business and reach thousands of Facebook users in your neighborhood, making your holiday sale more successful than in past years and adding more followers to your Facebook page at the same time.

Using some of these ideas will hopefully make the demanding holiday season even busier for your store.

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