Category Archives for "holiday season"

Happy New Year! How does the World Celebrate?

By Randall Orser | Happy New Year , holiday season

Wow, it’s hard to believe that 2019 is coming to a close already as it feels we just started it a few weeks ago. I do hope your 2019 has been a good one, and that 2020 is even better.  Ever been curious as to how New Year is celebrated in other parts of the world?

The Finns do it the weirdest

In Finland, each new year family and friends gather to burn metal in a pan for a ritual called "molybdomancy". The Finns inspect the shadows the metal casts by candlelight, as those shapes are supposed to predict the future. Although, this metal is customarily called “tin,” it’s actually sometimes lead, which, among other things, is known to spark severe mental illness... that might explain why this ritual has persisted for hundreds of years. And while that's all pretty well and weird, the Finns aren't alone: Ecuadorians burn paper-filled scarecrows, the Swiss drop ice cream on the floor, and people in Siberia plunge into frozen lakes while carrying a tree trunk -- all to ring in the new year.

The 8th most common New Year's resolution is to improve a relationship

Only around 40% of us will even make a resolution. While nearly all of those vows err on the side of improvement (e.g. start exercising, improve your finances, quit smoking), the 8th most common resolution is to get along better with someone else, according to a 2012 Harris poll. So what’s the number one New Year’s resolution? Weight loss (duh).

We celebrate on Jan. 1 because Julius Caesar said so

Why does the New Year begin on January 1st? Because our contemporary (Gregorian) calendar is based on the Julian one (named after none other than the Big Ceas) and he made January month numero uno (which is latin for "number one" btw).

But New Year's used to be on March 20th

The first indication of a new year’s celebrations crop up around 2000 BC in the Middle East. Or, as its known in 9th grade history class, “Mesopotamia". At that time (2000 BC, not 9th grade), each year began on March 20th, AKA the vernal (or Spring) equinox. That's the one where the sun crosses directly over the equator. Nowadays, celebrating New Year’s is illegal in much of the same region (e.g. Saudi Arabia). Fertile crescent? More like festive crescent!

January is named after a god with two faces

We have ancient Rome to thank for our year beginning in January. The Roman god the month is named after, Janus, was described as having two faces. That's not a catty put-down either. We mean he literally had double the mug. When depicted in ancient Roman art, one of Janus' faces looks forward, while the other looks back. You know, like how you do on New Year's. Mad metaphorical.

Southerners eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck

Thought to have been derived from a Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) custom, Americans in the South annually gobble black-eyed peas. Most Southerners (and many historians) maintain the tradition began to take hold stateside when the first Shepari Jews moved to Georgia in the 1730s. By the end of the Civil War, the Rosh Hashanah tradition had evolved into a widespread practice in the South, enjoyed by both Jews and gentiles.

The ball drop is over 100 years old

Before Times Square was the home of M&Ms, naked cowboys, and hard-haggling middle-aged men in Elmo costumes, it was a classy little bit of town, called One Times Square. Its first New Year’s ball dropping took place December 31, 1907. Since then, it’s tumbled down every year (save for a couple during World War II). Over a million-people flock to watch every December.

The New Year's kiss has been around since the Middle Ages

Historians reckon that the New Year’s kiss is derived from either German and English folklore (it was a tradition in both). Both customs contended this: the first person you encounter in a new year will set that year’s tone. So, if the person you encounter likes you enough to make out with you, things are looking pretty good. Or maybe you're just looking pretty good.

The only other people who still sing "Auld Lang Syne" are Boy Scouts

The lyrics of Auld Lang Syne (which we can't abbreviate because ice buckets) are from a 1788 poem by an old Scot called Robert Burns. Well, Burns attributed the lyrics to unwritten remarks by an unnamed old man. But a few graphs of it very closely (near verbatim) resemble a poem called "Old Long Syne" written in 1711 by a man called James Watson. It's assumed Burns at least wrote the rest of it. Things like: Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold, that loving Breast on thine. Catchy. Apparently, the Boy Scouts of America sing it at the end of their jamborees. Now you want a "Things you didn't know about Boy Scouts", right!?

Nearly a quarter of you are gonna be asleep before midnight

About 22% of Americans cop to passing out before the clock strikes 12. Unless you’re Cinderella and you gotta go before your carriage turns into a pumpkin, then there's no excuse. Being conscious to recognize midnight is the whole reason there was even a party, man.  So enjoy the countdown to 2020 and raise a glass of bubbly to a Happy New Year.

Christmas in Canada – Fun Trivia that you May Not Know

By Randall Orser | holiday season


  1. A 2018 survey by the Retail Council of Canada discovered that residents of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador spent more per capita (an average of $813 per person) in retail stores.  This is more than any other Provinces.  Ontario and BC came in at number 2 with average spending of $805 and in third place Quebecers spent $458 on average per person.
  2. Vancouver BC claims to be the birthplace of the first Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.”
  3. Winnipeg is often referred to as the "Christmas Capital of Canada" because it is almost always guaranteed to have snow on the ground at Christmas.
  4. Santa has his own postal code in Canada - since 1982 big-hearted Canadian Post Office workers have donated over 200,000 hours of their time answering letters to Santa.  They have also set up a special postal code for Santa as part of a "Santa Letter Writing Program" literary initiative.  The special postal code is H0H 0H0.
  5. The Christmas tree was first introduced to Canada in 1781 by German immigrant Baron Friederick von Riedesel in Sorel, Quebec. 
  6. In Northern Canada a Taffy Pull Party is set up in honour of St. Catherine the patron saint of single women.  The party provides an opportunity for single women to meet available single men.
  7. Did you know that Rudolf was Canadian?  All the character voices in the favourite Christmas Movie, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer were performed by Canadian actors, singers and voice-over artists at the RCA Victor Studios in Toronto.
  8. Canadians Love Eggnog!  The volume of Commercial sales of eggnog in Canada in December is around 6.7 million litres. 
  9. The Toronto Santa Claus Parade has been held every Christmas since 1905. Almost 1,800 people take part in the parade, and about 500,000 people line the parade route.  It is one of the largest parades in North America.  The T. Eaton company sponsored the first parade.
  10. Every year, the province of Nova Scotia gives a Christmas tree to the US city of Boston. The tree is in appreciation for help given by Boston residents after a ship exploded in Halifax in 1917.
  11. Cookie baking parties are very popular all over Canada around Christmas. Cookies are baked and recipes are exchanged, and each person at the party leaves with a selection of cookies.
  12. Candy, chocolate and snack foods account for around $450 million of sales in Canada in December.
  13. Homes in Labrador City in Newfoundland have a Christmas lights competition every year.   Homeowners also try to outdo each other with huge ice sculptures and light displays in their gardens.
  14. A substantial part of the popular Christmas movie A Christmas Story was filmed in Canada, including Ralphie’s school, the Chinese restaurant, the famous swearing scene and interior segments. 
  15. Canadians love Department Stores and Booze – According to Statistics Canada Canadians prefer to shop in person with department stores being their favourite place to buy.   In second place are beer, liquor and wine stores with an average of $1.6 billion dollars being spent on booze. 
  16. Michael Bublé had a very Merry Christmas in 2011 when his album Christmas was listed as the second biggest selling album of 2011.  It sold 2.45 million copies in the U.S. alone only exceeded by Adele’s 21.  Impressively an album with only a few weeks on the shelf outsold almost all the competition in 2011.
  17. Attending midnight mass is customary among French speaking Canadians, as well as attending feasts on Christmas Eve. A stew made from pigs’ feet is a traditional Christmas meal in parts of Quebec.  
  18. Mummering is a popular tradition during the 12 days of Christmas in parts of Newfoundland.  Children often wearing masks go from door to door, sing and dance, and are given snacks and drinks.
  19. Canadians Love Turkey! In 2017 according to the Turkey Farmers of Canada, Canadians consumed 153.1kg of turkey.  During Christmas that year 3.3 million whole turkeys were purchased which is equal to 47% of all the turkeys sold in 2017.
  20. During the last seven days of December, many of Canada's Inuit celebrate Christ's birth by exchanging gifts every day.
  21. Justin Trudeau was born on Christmas Day.
  22. In the Atlantic Provinces retail shopping is not allowed on Boxing Day, sales start on the 27th of December.
  23. The Federal Accountability Act of 2006 and protocol does not allow the Prime Minister or his family to accept monetary gifts, gift cards or perishable food items. 
  24. In 2016 Canada had 1872 Christmas tree farms concentrated in BC, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and exported 1.95 million trees to over 20 countries.

Tips for Retailers – How to Increase Your Sales the Week After Christmas

By Randall Orser | Employees , holiday season , Marketing , marketing strategy , Retail , Small Business

The week between Christmas and New Year can be a great opportunity to increase the profitability of your business.  If you do it right, you can net more from this week than any other week in the year.  Here are some tips to help you to have a profitable week.

Creating a Customer Experience – More than likely you will have customers in your store to spend those gift cards that they got for Christmas.  Many will be regulars but many of them will be visiting your store for the first time and you need to WOW them so that they will come back.  Think of little extras that you can offer to enhance their experience.  

Christmas is over, so freshen up your store.  Take down Christmas decorations and promotional signage and change the music.  For those customers who came in before Christmas a change of atmosphere may energize them to buy.

Sales and Incentives – Have your markdowns ready for the 26th of December.  The faster that you move this merchandise the sooner you can freshen up your store.  Some retailers believe in having a January sale instead, but this means that you will not be ordering new stock until February and your store will not have a new look until March.  Stuff bags with coupons to give customers incentives to return.

Full Price Merchandising -  Part of freshening up the store is putting new full priced merchandise out on the floor.  As many people are using gift cards, they might be more likely to buy new full priced items rather than those left over from the holiday season, giving you a greater profit margin.

Reduce your spending on Advertising – As it is after Christmas everyone is having sales. So instead of spending money on advertising use that money to motivate your staff to give exceptional customer service or use it on incentives for your customers.

Refocusing Staff -  The focus has changed from selling stuff, to keeping it sold.  Instead of having staff just concentrate on returns encourage them to focus on converting returns into exchanges and new sales.  Train them on suggestive selling techniques to use when they are processing a return. If you sell a lot of gift cards before Christmas ready your staff to sell prospective new customers.  This is also a good time to update your customer data base and to encourage customers to join your loyalty program.

Show Appreciation to Your Staff – They have just gone through the most hectic four weeks of the year and you are now asking them to do more.  This is a good time to show them that you care, coffee runs, catered lunches or even the services of a masseuse are ways to show your appreciation for their efforts. 

Remember most customers are just coasting until New Year and they don’t expect to find much in stores except sales on leftover Christmas items.  If you have made your target it can be tempting to sit back as well, but this is a great opportunity to create a good impression with customers by giving them new and interesting things to buy. 

How Stores Get You to Spend More Money During the Holiday Season

By Randall Orser | holiday season , Personal Finances , Retail

The Christmas Holidays are the most expensive time of the year for most of us.  After buying gifts for family, friends, clients, Secret Santa exchanges and others, we are left with huge credit card bills or empty bank accounts.  Although this is the season of buying retailers make it even harder on our wallets by employing a number of tricks and techniques to get us to part with even more of our money.

 1.   Deceptive Pricing and Clearance Pricing - Our minds are focused on saving money so if we see an item priced at $19.99 but reads was $39.99, it seems like a great deal and we are more likely to buy it because our brains are wired to feel that we are getting something for nothing.   An identical item priced at $19.99 will not sell as well because it is not seen as a deal.  In 2016 some American stores were sued over the deceptive practice of marking up the price of merchandise just to mark it down again so don’t always believe what you see, there is a good chance that the item is $19.99 all year.

2.   Designing the Store Layout to Maximize Profit - Retailers spend a lot of money researching and planning the best layouts for their stores to encourage you to put the most profitable items in your shopping cart.  Items placed at eye level are most likely to earn the most profit margin for the store as opposed to those on the bottom shelf.

As most people are right-handed and will reach for an item with their right hand so stores will put eye catching displays to the right of the entrance to their store.  These will either be high margin items or items that they want to move quickly.  A good shopping strategy is to veer left when you go into a store and check out the top and bottom shelves where you might find better deals.

3.   Ending Almost Every Price with a 9 - This is a psychological trick that most of us fall for.  $199.99 is a lot more attractive price than $200 even though there is only a cent difference.  People focus on the first digit in the price, 1 being less than 2.  Once the price jumps to $200 it is seen as being between $200 and $300 even though again it is only a cent difference.  We need to train ourselves to see $199.99 as over $200 as that is what it will be once taxes are added.  

4.   Helping Customers get into the Mood to Spend - You may already have Christmas overload with all the smells, sights and sounds that get you into the festive spirit.  Retailers want to make sure that you stay in the mood to give gifts and set up their stores with bright red and green, cheerful colours and lights, holiday music and even offer mulled wine.   When restaurants are busy, they want you to leave quickly, so one trick is to switch up the festive music for something more aggressive and increase the volume.  Tip – ignore the sensory overload, make a list and keep to it, get in and get out!

5.   Specially Packaged Gift Sets and Bundles can Cost More - Stores love to put together gift packs and sets which makes it easier for shoppers.  Beware! you are not always getting the best value for your money.  The cost of these bundles can be greater than buying the items individually, so make sure you are getting a deal before buying a gift set.

6.   Placing Lower-Priced items Next to Expensive Items – this will get you to compare items that appear similar but are different.  By putting a less expensive item next to an expensive one it looks like a steal, but the store could actually be charging more than their competitors.

7.   Offering Double-up Deals that You Don’t Need but Find Hard to Resist – “Buy One Get One Free” is something that is difficult to resist but sometimes taking that deal is false economy.  You may think that you are getting something for nothing, but you need to be aware of the price of the item in other stores.  You may not have to take the deal to get a good price on the item that you originally wanted.

8.   Providing Easy Credit Options -  Retailers know that customers cannot always pay for big ticket items so they offer you credit so that you can spread the payment over time without interest, but you can be sure that their profit margin is built into this.  Customers need to be sure that they are able to pay within the interest free period because the debt will eventually become due and all the interest accrued will be added.

9.   Making Clearance Items Harder to Find – Most stores have an aisle or “end cap” for their sale and clearance items.  In December these clearance items become harder to find meaning that customers have to search for them.  Retailers know that in the frantic rush to get gifts most people will be willing to pay full price.

10.  Offering Customer Incentives – Many stores offer free gifts with purchase you will see many of these at the cosmetic counter.  If you spend a certain amount of money you will get a free gift which encourages those who would not normally buy to put their money down.  Other incentives include coupons and discounts.

Despite using these techniques to encourage you to part ways with your money, stores are not trying to be dishonest.   They are just trying to get you to spend more, thereby increasing sales and keeping their staff employed.   Just be aware of these tricks and you will be able to do your holiday shopping without spending too much.

Tips to Avoid Holiday Spending Mistakes

By Randall Orser | Budget , holiday season , Personal Finances

It is very difficult not to overspend when buying Christmas gifts, we all do it!  This year Canadians will spend an average of about $1593.00 up slightly from $1563 in 2018.   Although 41% of this is spent while shopping on-line, the remainder 59% is spent in brick and mortar stores.  As overspending at Christmas can adversely affect our finances going into the New Year it is important to make and stick to a budget when buying gifts.  Here are five ways you can save money on Christmas Gifts.

1.   Make a Holiday Budget and Stick to it

  • Allocate money out of your monthly budget to a gift fund
  • Make it a creative challenge to give carefully thought out gifts which have more meaning than expensive ones, think about giving something home-made.
  • Consider expectations set by family and social situations when making up your budget.  Your family might decide to only give gifts to the children but if not ask them to consider a lower spending limit especially if you have a large family.
  • Start shopping early, shop sales and purchase items throughout the year, this will make holiday gift buying less stressful.
  • Don’t forget to include travel, Christmas Cards, Wrapping, Decorations in your budget.

2.  Don’t Use Credit – if you charge everything to your credit card you will be paying for Christmas well into the New Year or even for years afterwards.  When people are shopping at Christmas, they tend to use their credit card instead of cash.  Use your debit card instead of your credit card, if you have planned carefully all year you will have the extra money in your bank account to do just that.

3. Plan Your Christmas List Well in Advance - This will help you to buy gifts throughout the year at sales such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and if you are really organized even Boxing Day.  Make sure you keep a list of who you have bought gifts for to make sure that you do not buy for a person more than once or miss anyone out. 

  • Keep a running list of things to buy and watch out for the best price.
  • Planning ahead takes the worry out of finding the perfect gift and the last-minute gift buying panic.

4. Don’t forget to shop around – To save money take time to comparison shop. You should check prices on-line at two or three stores before you go shopping to make sure that you are getting the best price.

5.   Don’t leave gift buying to the last minute – Panic buying will more than likely mean that you will spend more as your choices will be more limited.   Plan to get all your shopping done before the holiday season begins.

6.    Buy one or two Extra Gifts – You may be invited to last minute parties and need to take a gift which can throw off your budget.  Buy a couple of generic gifts during the year so that you have them on hand if you need them.  A bottle of wine is always a good choice to take to a Christmas get together.  

  • Think about buying gifts that you would enjoy in case you do not use it.
  • Remember you can always return unused gifts.

7.   Encourage Christmas Gift Exchanges – Secret Santa gifts or draws are a great way to save money.  

  • You will only have to shop for one person instead of many which works very well in a work or large family situation.  
  • You may also be able to purchase a nicer gift for the one person than you would buy for several people. 
  • People love Secret Santa as it makes their shopping simpler.

8.   Give a Christmas Gift to Someone in Need - Instead of giving gifts to family and friends who do not really need anything, consider donating to a charity in their name.  You can also purchase an extra gift while out shopping and drop it off right away.  Doing good by giving gifts to those in need instead of family members will help to get you into the holiday spirit and it can also save you money.  

Cyber Monday or Green Monday – Will you be Shopping On-line?

By Randall Orser | Budget , holiday season , marketing strategy , Personal Finances , Retail

Most of us have heard about Cyber Monday, the first Monday after American Thanksgiving when retailers offer many deals for us to buy on-line, but what is Green Monday?  

Green Monday falls on the second Monday in December, the name is thought to originate from the green colour of the American dollar.  The term was originally coined by Ebay in 2007 to describe the best sales day on their website in December.  Green Monday marks the 10-day shipping period before Christmas and is so successful because people realize that their time is running out to buy and ship gifts to arrive for Christmas.

As other retailers also adopted this day to offer their own seasonal deals (some call it Cyber Monday 2) Green Monday became the third largest shopping day of the season with sales in the U.S. of over $1.6 billion in 2016.  The retailers that usually participate in Green Monday are Walmart, Amazon and Best Buy and though popular in the U.S. the day is not as important on the calendar of Canadian shoppers, but it will probably grow in popularity in the future. 

The first Monday after American Thanksgiving was named Cyber Monday by Shop.org in 2005, although at that time as not many people had high speed internet connections they did not participate.  However, as connections speeds have increased so has the spending on Cyber Monday.  It was the biggest shopping day of the year both in 2017 and 2018 surpassing Black Friday.  Nearly a third of shoppers in the U.S. begin on the day before Cyber Monday and top stores such as Amazon and Walmart start cyber week sales on Thanksgiving Day.

Why Cyber Monday is so Popular

  • According to Adobe Digital Insights 40% of shoppers like the 24-hour shopping convenience.
  • The same number of shoppers wanted to avoid the Black Friday crowds.
  • 30% of shoppers enjoyed the ability to easily compare prices on-line.
  • Almost 90% of retailers offer Cyber Monday sales with 45% offering coupons or a percentage discount.
  • Over a third of retailers offered free shipping and 36% of shoppers said they would increase their on-line shopping if shipping was free.

A few on-line shoppers surveyed said that they would not buy on-line due to expensive shipping charges, or they didn’t like that they could not see or handle their purchase, or thirdly did not like to wait for their items to be delivered.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Over a third of shoppers said that they would go to social media to get information about Cyber Monday deals usually on a company’s Facebook page and two thirds check out reviews on the company website before making a purchase.   More than half of on-line retailers make sure that they promote their sales on social media and that their websites are optimized for mobile devices.  

Impact on Brick and Mortar Stores

On-line retailing is growing by almost 10% annually and in 2020 is expected to reach $523 billion(USD).  In 2017 over 60% of people in 16 countries said that their everyday transactions were on-line rather than in-store.    This growth in on-line sales is having an impact on brick and mortar stores with more and more declaring bankruptcy every year.  It has been predicted that 75% of shopping malls will close in the U.S. in the next five years and those that do survive will cater only to high income consumers.  We can see from the number of closed stores in our malls that the same pattern is being repeated in Canada.

Black Friday Shopping – Retailers “Dirty Secrets”

By Randall Orser | holiday season , Marketing , marketing strategy , Retail

Black Friday is upon us once again, and we have been bombarded with ads on tv and social media for the last few weeks.  Black Friday started in 1932 in the U.S. when it was considered the start of the Christmas Shopping season.  The name Black Friday originated from the most popular idea that businesses ran at a loss or “in the red” from January to November, but on the day after American Thanksgiving they would return to “operating in the black”. 

Nowadays people shop in person (if they are crazy), or online if they want to buy in the comfort of home.  Though Cyber Monday has now eclipsed Black Friday, it is still a huge shopping day when millions of consumers hunt for bargains and retailers find new and ingenious ways to get them to part with their money.  Here are some of the traps that shoppers can fall into if they are not careful:

Doorbuster Deals” are Scarce – although ads are not allowed to be totally misleading, or tell you something that is untrue, it can tell you something without focusing on the details.  For instance, that ad announcing 60% off a TV will also have small print to tell you that quantities are limited especially if it is a doorbuster deal, so even if you camp out all night you shouldn’t count on getting one.  Although these deals are known as “loss leaders” and stores certainly lose money on them, they recoup it and much more when people hoping to get the deal stay in the store and spend more money.  

Deals Often Require you to do Extra Work – When you see a heavily discounted product you may also see (after mail in rebate).  That means that you will pay the full price on the day and you will have to wait to get your money back, which could take some time.  Meanwhile stores are hoping that with the Christmas rush and activities you forget to claim it which is true for millions of people.

Price Matching Disappears Black Friday week – Most of the year retailers are happy to price match as it makes sense for them to make a smaller profit rather than none at all.  However, some retailers will have purchased extra stock of items at a cheaper price so they can offer doorbuster deals, heavy discounted promotions or be ready to take a loss to lure in customers.  Their competitors will not honour these discounted prices as it may mean that they will lose too much money.

Before and After Prices can be Sketchy – Consumers are easily persuaded to buy an item when they see “Was $100 now $60, and similar offers.  Be aware that retailers can offer an item at $99.99 and then on Black Friday “50% off now $99.99,”  same item, same price but the perception that the price is heavily discounted is more likely to create a sale.  Stores are able to get around the legality of this by being able to use a base price to discount from even if the item has only been at that base price for only one day out of the year.  They can also use a “suggested retail price” as their base price even it is ridiculously high.   Some stores actually charge more for an item on Black Friday than they do for the rest of the year when the item is on sale, hoping that consumers will buy into the signage and the shopping frenzy. You can also see “Before” pricing that was the price when the item first came into the store, when in reality it has been selling for 50% off for many months, so any “deal” that you are getting on Black Friday may only be a small amount off the previous regular price not actually 50% off that price. 

Watch out for Time Sensitive Deals – When checking out those ads make sure to read the small print to see if there is a time period when the item will be at that price.  The idea behind the time limit is to create a false sense of urgency and a shopping frenzy.  You can expect the price to go up significantly when the sale time is over.  You might see an item at $10 at 8am, it goes up to $20 at 10am and is $30 by noon so it is not a good idea to shop around in this case. 

Many Black Friday Deals are Discontinued, Obsolete or Poor Sellers – Black Friday is a wonderful opportunity for retailers to get rid of dead stock, so beware if that something seems to be a good deal, make sure that you are still able to get refills etc. for it and that it is not obsolete.  You might also see products that are a poorer stripped-down cousin to the one that you actually want.    Rule of thumb is always if it seems too good to be true then it usually is.

Retailers Want you to Shop In-store not On-line -  They create a Black Friday shopping frenzy on purpose to attract you into their brick and mortar stores so that you will spend more than you planned to.   However, shopping on-line is making the rush to stores obsolete, you can find the same Black Friday deals the same day or even the week before.

So, make sure that you aware of all the “tricks of the trade” before you rush out to get that deal on Black Friday.   It is really just a day of bargain shopping, some prices will be good, but some items will be available at the same price or better on other days.  If you don’t need to have the item straightaway, consider avoiding the rush and buying on-line.

From an article by Paul Suggett

When Should the Holiday Shopping Season Start?

By Randall Orser | Budget , Employees , holiday season , marketing strategy , Retail , Small Business

There is no specific date when retailers should start their Christmas Holiday selling season, but customers would argue that it starts earlier every year.  Following consumer push back the Christmas retail season usually starts after Remembrance Day here in Canada, that’s unless you shop at Costco!  

Retailers who start their Christmas selling program too early, both in-store and on-line often find that customers are irritated by being bombarded with Christmas advertising, merchandise and songs in November and they are turned off of holiday shopping.  Hiring staff too early can be costly for a retailer, if there are not enough sales to support the extra staff and putting out Christmas inventory too early can be a waste of valuable retail space if it is not selling. 

When it comes to Holiday Season discounts and sales which are appearing earlier and earlier each year it is important to put a lot of thought into the products or services that you want to discount.  It really depends upon your business and your market, but these considerations apply to most retailers.

  • If the items are appropriate for the time of year, you don’t want to be selling summer season items in winter.
  • If the items are appropriate for your location – there is no point in trying to sell mitts and scarves in somewhere like Florida or Southern California, they need to be sold in colder climates.
  • Timing – whether your customers will have money to buy early in the season or they are most likely to spend when they get their Christmas bonuses.  You could consider a layaway plan for larger ticket items so they can be paid for over a number of weeks.
  • What you want to have in stock for after Christmas sales when people have more time to shop and likely have more cash and gift cards to spend.
  • Following what other retailers in your industry do if it is a good decision for your business.  It is always a good idea to know what your competition is doing but don’t start your holiday sales earlier because they do if it does not make business sense for you.

Starting your Holiday discounting too early although beneficial to some customers to others it is confusing.  Two months of constant big sales makes it difficult for them to know when to buy to get the best deal, it can also sap any sense of urgency and deter them from making major purchases on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Ideas for a Halloween Business

By Randall Orser | holiday season , Home Based Business , Small Business

If you are thinking of starting a seasonal business, statistics have shown that Halloween is a good time to do it.  Don’t bother thinking about trying to get into business selling candies or pumpkins, that Halloween business is already taken by bigger companies like Walmart so it would be pretty much impossible to compete. 

However, you there is scope with Halloween costumes and decorations to develop a business and cater to a niche market.  For example:

  • Providing Halloween music for parties
  • Creating “authentic” period costumes for adults
  • Providing Halloween decorating services for homes or businesses
  • Presenting in-house parties for children (a substitute for trick or treating.) or organizing adult Halloween events.

Also growing in popularity is visiting haunted houses.   Setting up your own could be expensive and turn out not to be as good as other ones nearby but providing tours of “haunted houses” and other spooky sites in your area could be a lucrative business.  Contact your local historical society to research the paranormal history of your area and you could uncover ghost stories that might surprise you and present them to your customers in an entertaining and exciting way. 

If you set up a decorating or party planning business for Halloween, it would not be difficult to turn this into a seasonal business for Christmas or even do the same for birthdays.  Once you are established and do a good job you might be surprised at how many clients you get and how much profit you can make.  

Online shopping is Booming in Canada – Be Part of This Growing Market

By Randall Orser | holiday season , Small Business

Although companies such as Amazon and eBay, command the online market, there is still room or small internet entrepreneurs with niche products or services to set up a profitable on-line business. 

Statistics show that the number of Canadians who shop online has grown from 19.5 million in 2013 to the projected number of 22.5 million in 2018.  37% of these buyers shop online monthly or more and 75% of these spend up to $200 per month. 10% report spending up to $500 per month.

The most popular items purchased on line are:  Books, music, movies and video games, electronics, smartphones, computers, clothing and accessories, appliances and tools and food. Five per cent of online shoppers purchased groceries but as more grocery stores offer home delivery, and with the coming of “DoorDash” and “Skip the Dishes” take-out delivery services, this food delivery niche market will experience major growth. 

Between 16% and 40% of people surveyed said that they preferred to shop online.  The percentage was larger with the younger age groups and less with the older age groups.


Why do people buy online – the three biggest reasons are reason are: 

  • Access to a worldwide market - Most anything you need can be purchased online including many things that are not available in Canada and a greater choice of goods.
  • Price - prices are still very competitive online but can often be less than brick and mortar stores.  In addition, many websites offer special sales for online customers only.
  • Convenience – with so many people working from home, it is much more convenient to purchase on line and have it delivered to your home, rather than braving the traffic to go to the mall.  You can also shop in your pajamas, and no one would know!  

Two of the biggest concerns for on-line shoppers were the security of their personal data, and not being able to return unwanted goods.   

Most people surveyed were comfortable setting up an online account with a retailer, but they were not comfortable when they were asked about their shopping habits.  Most Canadians trusted websites hosted in Canada with their personal information, but 76% had concerns about their information being stored in the United States.  

Many Canadian retailers allow online shoppers to return items to their brick and mortar stores giving buyers more confidence when shopping online.

VL Omni recently published their annual report on eCommerce in Canada which shows considerable growth and potential. 

  • In 2017 Canadian businesses sold $136 billion in goods and services online, up 42% year over year.
  • 62% of Canadians who shop internationally online would prefer to shop domestically.
  • 95% of small business owners bought items for their small business online
  • 23.5% facilitate “click and collect” and 68.9% allow in-store returns of online purchases.
  • Canadian businesses also sell their products through online marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart and eBay.

Whatever your niche product or service there is still room for you in the online marketplace.  Now is a good time to consider what could offer online and to build a profitable business.  An online business provides a great opportunity if you are retired, a stay at home Mom or if you just need some extra income.