U.S. Markets closed

How to Prepare Your Small Business for Memorial Day Weekend

Emily Starbuck Gerson
How to Prepare Your Small Business for Memorial Day Weekend

Consumers have come to recognize Memorial Day weekend as a time when many businesses offer enticing specials, and they’re willing to fork over the big bucks. In fact, last year, a retail report by New MFour and Vistar Media found that American adults planned to spend an average of $486 each over Memorial Day weekend, with a total estimated spend of $36 billion.

While this holiday weekend can be a boon for your business, it can also be problematic if you haven’t prepared your marketing, staffing and inventory for the big day.

4 ways to prepare your business for Memorial Day

With consumers eager to shop, big holiday shopping weekends like Memorial Day can increase sales for small businesses—if they’re managed correctly, said sales expert Martyn R. Lewis, co-founder and CEO of Market-Partners and author of How Customers Buy…& Why They Don’t. Here are four ways you can get ready for Memorial Day weekend to make sure it’s a success for your business.

1. Rethink your Memorial Day deals

Most small businesses think they need to focus on telling customers why their product(s) are wonderful and offer discounts or deals during holiday weekends to encourage new sales. But customers are smart and already know why your product is desirable, Lewis said. And a discount, while desirable, usually only attracts consumers who were already thinking of buying, he says. Instead, Lewis recommends addressing the factors beyond price that prevent someone from buying your product.

For example, say you sell printers. You may be confident that you offer the best printers at the lowest prices, but cost alone may not be enough to sway potential buyers.

“If they buy that new printer from you, what about all the ink they’ve got in their cupboard for their existing printer?” Lewis said. “What about the fact that last time they installed a new printer it took them days because the driver didn’t work? Those are the reasons that people aren’t buying, and you’ve got to address those reasons.”

Rather than screaming about a great deal, Lewis recommends shifting the focus to solving those problems. In the case of our printer business, instead of just offering a 10% discount for Memorial Day, consider offering to buy back old ink or have an expert visit their home for free and set up the new printer.

2. Support the military—but only if it’s genuine

May is National Military Appreciation Month, and Memorial Day’s purpose is to commemorate those who lost their lives serving our country. One way to commemorate Memorial Day as a business is to do something to honor veterans and active duty service members, which can establish goodwill with the community—some ideas from the SBA include collecting items for deployed troops or offering a military discount. But don’t do it just to look good for customers.

“Markets can read very quickly if something is authentic or not,” Lewis warned. “If you are authentically doing it, absolutely do it. But if it’s just a marketing gimmick, don’t go there; the world will see it as such.”

How do you know if what you’re doing is authentic? If you have to question why you’re doing it, then it’s probably not, Lewis explained. “If they have got connections into the military, if they feel that’s the right thing for them to be in and it’s not a one-day special to attract customers, then that’s authentic marketing.”

3. Manage your staffing

You’ll likely see more foot traffic than normal on holidays, so it’s smart to plan ahead and make sure you have enough workers available. However, rather than assigning shifts at random, talk to your team ahead of time. Memorial Day might be a meaningful day for some, especially if it’s traditionally spent with family. If possible, those employees shouldn’t be forced to work since that holiday is valuable to them, Lewis said, and requiring them to miss it for work can create tension in the workplace.

However, Lewis, who worked on the issue of holiday scheduling with a large retail company, learned that many of their employees were happy to work on holidays because they didn’t have plans. But be sure to show your appreciation—employees who are willing to work on holidays should always be incentivized to do so, Lewis said, perhaps as a bonus, extra pay or more time off.

How can you figure out the best incentive for your employees to work that day? Ask them and involve them in the process, Lewis said. For example, he suggested phrasing it like this: “Memorial Day is a very important day for us and we need extra staff. How would you feel about working that day? We don’t want you to work a holiday if you have plans, but what can we do to make that attractive for you?”

4. Prepare your inventory

If you typically see an increase in sales on holidays like Memorial Day or certain items are more likely to fly off the shelves, it’s vital you prepare your inventory accordingly so you don’t sell out too soon. Being on top of inventory management is especially important in the age of online shopping, Lewis said; if you are out of stock of an item, a customer will likely hop on Amazon or find it elsewhere so they can have it sooner.

Rather than guessing how much inventory you need, Lewis said it’s ideal to use sales analytics or intelligence to help you determine what inventory you should have on demand. If you can’t afford that type of software or service, you can use something as simple as a spreadsheet as long as it helps you manage inventory.

It’s possible you’ll need to stock up with more inventory than you can afford to pay with cash. If that’s the case, you might turn to a working capital loan, which can help you pay for the bigger-than-usual order. The average interest rate on small business loans is typically around 4% to 6%. Just be sure to shop around a little before you settle on a lender so you get the best rate.

The bottom line

Preparation is key for any small business, especially on holidays like Memorial Day when consumers shop more than usual. However, make sure to look at your past sales data, market data and any other information you can.

“Always base what you’re doing on reality, not optimism,” Lewis said. “Too many companies in my experience are wildly optimistic. It’s good to be passionate and optimistic, but when you’re making decisions on staffing, on inventory and on investing in marketing, it’s much better to have a focus, a target and a little bit of reality.”