Category Archives for "holiday season"

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.  

 

How to Get More Christmas Sales for Your Small Business

By Randall Orser | holiday season , Small Business

During the Christmas Season there is only one thing that matters to retailers - the sales graph.  This can be make-or-break time for many small businesses and it is important that those sales climb as steeply as possible.

To get greater sales it is obvious that you need to get more customers. How can you get more customers? You need to make sure that more people see or experience the quality or unique product or service that you are offering so that they will buy. With a little effort and ingenuity, you can get potential customers into your store, and it might not be as hard as you think.  Here are a few ideas to help you to create your Christmas Rush:

Have a Sale

  • Most retailers have a Christmas Sale and nowadays they are not waiting for Boxing Day to do it.  Customers are inundated with Christmas advertising, so you need to make your sale stand out from the rest and be an event that everyone will want to attend. How can you do that?
  • Offer a big discount on a popular item for just one day.
  • Decide if you want to make it a discount or a free gift with purchase. 
  • Make sure your discount is worthwhile, people are not interested in only 10 or 20% unless it is a storewide sale.

Advertise your sale heavily on the best channels for your customers, social media, radio, etc. people need to hear about it to show up to your store.

Hold an Event  -  Create an event which ties into your product or services, for example a free cooking or home improvement class with a guest presenter, or a wine and food tasting with a chef.  Think about how this event will benefit the customer making them want to attend.

Use an Email Campaign - Social Media is a good way to get the news out, but an email blitz has been shown to be the most effective way to attract customers. Most businesses already send out an email newsletter so make sure it includes details of any sales or specials at Christmas. Feature items that customers will want as a limited quantity and create a demand.  You can also send out separate emails to “special” customers making sure that you personalize them offering them extra discounts not available to everyone, this makes them feel special and encourages them to shop with you.

Create an Attractive Window Display that is unique, eye-catching and foot-stopping to catch foot traffic that might usually walk right by your store.  Work your crowd, offer cookies or a free hot drink to people who are admiring your display to bring them into your store.

All of these strategies can be used as part of your Christmas Season marketing plan, but whatever you decide to do the most important thing is to get the word out to your target market and invite customers to your physical or virtual store.  Without customers your Christmas Season will be a non-event and not a good gift for your bottom line!

From an article by Susan Ward 

This Holiday Season – Shop Safely Online

By Randall Orser | holiday season , Personal Finances , Scams

During the holiday season millions are using online purchasing to avoid those hectic shopping malls.  However online shopping is different, you cannot meet the retailer or handle the goods prior to buying, and you cannot keep an eye on your credit card information.  Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when online shopping.

  • Know who you are dealing with – most of us shop with well-known retailers but if you are not sure about them check for their name, address, telephone and fax numbers on their website so you have their contact information.  Also check for quality assurance certificates or seals.
  • Look for websites that offer a lot of information about their products as you have to rely on their descriptions because you cannot touch or try on anything prior to purchasing.
  • Calculate the total cost of the goods and make sure to include shipping costs and duties if applicable to avoid any surprises when your purchase is delivered.
  • Read the terms and conditions of the sale.  These should be provided by the merchant in plain language and should include a description of the goods, the price, payment methods, delivery options, guarantees and warranties, return policies and your options if the goods do not arrive.  The merchant website should also include a simple process for handling complaints and inquiries and if applicable who is responsible for after-sales service.
  • Make sure you are comfortable with how merchants use your information.  Some use it to develop marketing profiles or sell it to others.  Before they do this, they should ask for your consent.  Reputable merchants will always publish their privacy policy.  If there is no privacy policy, you should think twice about buying anything.
  • Before providing financial information make sure the merchant has a secure transaction system.  Most internet browsers indicate when you are using a secure link. This will either be an icon, often a lock at the bottom of the screen or in the address bar of your browser, or if the website begins with https:// the s indicates that it is secure.
  • Be careful when buying from auctions as when you are buying from a private individual consumer protection laws do not protect you.  Read the rules of the auction site the better ones will have records of customer satisfaction and a system to resolve disputes.
  • Buying internationally might give you a good price but it involves more risk. Make sure you calculate the price with shipping and duties allowing for currency conversions and check that the goods meet Canadian safety standards.
  • If an offer sounds too good to be true stay away from it.  This includes a promise of a valuable prize for a low-cost purchase and any offer asking you to send money before you get the special deal.

With all this in mind, have a happy online shopping season!

Wait I Thought That Gift Cards did not Expire!

By Randall Orser | holiday season , Personal Finances

It may be a big surprise to you, but did you know that gift cards you receive for charitable or promotional purposes are allowed to expire? The rules and laws around gift cards can get a little confusing. Here are some examples where your gift card can expire.

  1. PRIZE – if a gift card is issued as a prize and used for promotional purposes the card is allowed to expire according to the Prepaid Purchase Card Regulation.  The business donating it must indicate either on the card or its receipt when and how the card can be used, and they can then set their own policies for the card when it is sold or issued for a promotional purpose.
  2. CHARITY – If you enter a draw for charity and win a gift card and there is an expiry date either on the card or its receipt it must be used by then.  Because the card was bought for charity it is allowed to expire as long as the donating business indicates on the card or its receipt how gift card can be used, they can set their own policies for use.
  3.  Cards issued for a specific good or service can expire.
  4. Cards that were sold at a discount for example a discount on services during a promotion are allowed to expire.
  5. If the gift card was bought before 2009 it is allowed to expire.

Cards That Don’t Have an Expiry Date

  1. MALL and RETAIL Cards: In BC, most retail gift cards, known as prepaid purchase cards, can’t have an expiry date or fees, however there are some exceptions and Mall Cards that can be used to purchase at multiple stores in a shopping centre are an exception.  Information as to extra fees, must be either told to you in person at the time of purchase or must be included in a folded-up document given to you with the card.
  1. PREPAID CARDS – such as prepaid Visa cards do not fall under BC gift card laws but are regulated by Canada’s Payment Products Regulations.  These cards which also include ones that you can buy at a grocery store checkout and are issued for a general dollar amount are not allowed to expire.  

From Consumer Protection Article Dec 14, 2016

 

Are you Planning to Give Gifts to Your Employees this Holiday Season? Do You Know What is Taxable?

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Employees , holiday season , Payroll , Small Business

At this time of year many employers give a Christmas or annual bonus – did you know that this is a taxable benefit if paid in cash or a cash equivalent such as gift cards?

You might think about giving your employees gifts instead of cash bonuses so that both of you will benefit on your Canadian income tax.  Employers can use the total cost of the gift as a tax deduction and employees do not need to declare the cost of the gift as part of their taxable income.

Under CRA rules all gifts to employees are considered to be taxable income except for the following exemptions:

1.   It is non-cash and less than $500 in fair market value per year and only given for the following reasons:

  • A Religious or other special event
  • Birth of a child
  • Wedding
  • Birthday

2.   It is a non-cash long standing service award valued at less than $500, this can be given once every five years.

3.   An Award for an employment related accomplishment.  These are allowed when:

  • It has clearly defined criteria
  • A nomination and evaluation process
  • Limited number of recipients

4.   Employer provided parties or social events where the cost is $100 per person or less.

5.   Meals or other hospitality services at work-related functions such as meetings or training sessions.

6.   Valueless items such as tea/coffee, snacks, t-shirts, hats etc.

There is no limit to the number of gifts an employee can receive in a given year as long as the total value is not more than $500.  Small gifts such as mugs or chocolates etc. are not included in the $500 limit.

If you want to give your employees gifts that are tax deductible for your company, you need to be careful what you give.  Items that can easily be converted into cash such as gift cards or stocks will be considered to be taxable employee benefits as will some performance related awards and bonuses.  Included under this rule are:

  • Gift Cards
  • Rewards that include employer-provided meals or accommodations such as trips
  • Cash or non-cash awards from manufacturers that are given to employers then passed onto employees
  • Points for travel, accommodations or other rewards
  • Gifts given by manufacturers to employees of dealerships

If you want to give Cash Bonuses or near-cash bonuses such as gift cards to your employees, it must be through payroll and must have taxes deducted.

For full list of taxable or non-taxable benefits and allowances visit the link below:
CRA's Benefits and allowances chart


Controlling Your Cash Flow Over the Holiday Season

By Randall Orser | Budget , holiday season , Small Business

The holiday season is almost here, and your small business is ramping up to sell more than it has all year.  Your orders are piling up and your staff is working hard to get shipments out to customers. 

At this time of year, many small businesses want to celebrate their achievements with staff and customers by giving bonuses and gifts and holding parties.  However, there might be a problem, where do you find the money to support all of this? You have a good balance of accounts receivable arriving in the New Year, but you need a better cash flow now.  Here are a few tips  to ensure that your cash flow runs smoothly over the holiday season.

  1. Make sure that your bookkeeping is taken care of and accurate.  This will provide an analysis of your profit and loss and cash flow and your current debt position.  Maybe it is time to hire a bookkeeper to keep you on top of these tasks and reduce the headaches?
  2. Develop and implement good collection plans and make sure your staff is trained to collect payments on time while still maintaining a good relationship with your customers.  Offer easy payment options to your customers giving them the ability to pay on-line or over the telephone. Giving a discount for early payment can encourage your customers to pay their bills quicker. 
  3. Take advantage of short-term lending – Waiting for late paying customers to settle their bills, buying new inventory, paying your employees or throwing that holiday celebration can strain your cash flow so you need to find short term funding that allows you to access cash immediately.  You could use your savings, credit cards, or line of credit.  Another option is obtaining short term invoice financing for instant capital until you receive payments.
  4. Delay Payments – work with your suppliers to extend your payment terms. The later you pay them, the more cash you will have on hand.  Another option is to delay your holiday party until the new year when you can still celebrate your achievements and the support of your staff and clients.
  5. Use your previous holiday season experience to gauge how much you are going to sell of a product this year and even when to run a sale.  Use a business analytics program to give you important information about your business to help you to increase profitability.
  6. Ensure that your team is well-equipped and prepared for the busy season ahead.  If you need to improve your customer service and nurture more sales hire a few part-time or temporary staff to help you.

Making these preparations to face the holiday season will help to make your busiest time of the year run a lot smoother and be more profitable.

The Holidays are Coming, Prepare Your Marketing Plan

By Randall Orser | holiday season , marketing strategy , Small Business

As the holidays are quickly approaching, you shouldn’t be doing business as usual. Want to finish the year with stronger-than-expected earnings? Then the following tips will help.

Holiday Makeover for Your Website

Your website is important, so don’t be a Scrooge about it. Are your customers families? You can rewrite your headlines to draw attention to products that are great presents for teachers, bus drivers, and coaches. Are your customers into eco-friendly products/services? Think about a ‘green gift ideas’ link on your home page. Better yet, do you have pictures of your clients enjoying using your products/services? Maybe during prior holidays? Use those along with a testimonial; a video is even better. These could be a way to generate more sales.

Use a Limited Time Offer

Is there something in your business that you could offer during the holidays? A nursery, could sell specialty greens or decorative wreaths. If you sell food and beverage items, you could sell holiday-themed kitchenware. Are you in a service business, you could host a holiday-themed even with food and music – you could tie it to a local charity and donate a portion of the proceeds. Your goal is to increase sales in a celebratory way.

Put a Bow on it

Your holiday shoppers are busy, so why not help relief their stress by offering gift-wrap services. You could include a variety of paper choices, gift bag, gift receipt, and gift card. The bonus is you may be able to make some profit on this service.

Avert Shipping Snafus

The busiest time of the year is traditionally mid-December, so it’s best to avert any shipping catastrophes. With this time comes much more mail and that means sorting and transit times take longer, or worse more lost packages. You could encourage your customers to order soon, and hopefully more, by using early bird promotions such as discounts, buy-one-get-one deals, or free shipping. By doing this, you can decrease shipments you send out during the holiday rush.

Clearly State an “Order By” Deadline

You should setup an order deadline date for those last-minute shoppers in order for them to get their orders in time. Make sure this shows up on a prominent place on your website. What shipping options are you offering? If only ground, then you may want to add an express shipping option to pick up more last-minute orders.

Get into the Spirit of the Season

Surprise your customers with a gift in their order, think of something thoughtful and useful. A tote bag, bottle openers, letter openers, are low-cost promotional items that can be used regularly. Appreciative customers may become repeat customers as well as recommend your business to family and friends. Think about branding that item as well, it’s a good economical advertising tool, too!

Reward Social Media Shares

People today want to share their life with others and social media allows them to do that. Of course, when we get a gift we want everyone to know about it. When a customer shares your product on social media and tags your business, enter them into a sweepstakes. Your lucky customer wins a prize, and you get an increase in brand impressions.

During the holidays, there are many ways to energize your online business. You can do that with a festive website makeover, have a limited time offering, giving your distressed customers gift-wrap options, use early bird options to get your customers to order sooner and more, clearly state your “order by” deadline, use branded gifts to surprise your customers, and reward social media shares. Have a merrier bottom line by using holiday marketing.

Five Ridiculously Simple Ways to Improve Your Christmas Marketing

By Randall Orser | holiday season , marketing strategy , Small Business

You’ve had a great year so far, you’re busy, sales have been solid, and you’re well on your way to a profitable year. You know your company has the holiday spirit and you want to highlight that come November and December; however, where do you start. There’s tons of ways, some won’t even cost you a penny, to tune up your normal marketing efforts to accentuate your businesses lighthearted mood. Which of the following ridiculously simple ways will attract those super shoppers to your business?

Seasonal Pinterest Board

On your board, share images of your holiday decorations, staff members in festive garb, or the latest products you brought in for the Christmas season. Festive quotes are another way to round out your collections, and you now have a holiday board perfectly poised to bring seasonal cheer to your customers. Publish local events, and use relevant keywords to attract local patrons to your Pinterest board and your business.

After Hours Holiday Event

This is a great way to thank your customers and perhaps get new customers. Have your guests register in the weeks leading up to the event by offering a drop box for their business cards or registration forms. You could even make it a by invite only event, or have a pre-party for your best customers. At the event, promote new products you’ll soon be launching or spotlight stock arrivals for spring and summer. Everyone is busy during the holidays, so ensure your event is captivating enough that they’ll make time in their packed schedules.

Local Charity Event

Is there a local charity everyone can get behind? The food bank is a great one, and they’re usually up for being part of your event. Tailor your event to what the charity’s greatest need is, and then adapt the event specially for those needs.

Create a Seasonal Video

A seasonal video is a great way to promote the business and post it to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The funnier you make your video the better the chances are for social shares. Maybe find a local Santa and have him talking and laughing with you about the naughty and nice employees in your business.

Video Contest

You may not feel comfortable doing your own video, maybe think about a video contest amongst your customers. The best video can win a gift certificate from your business, maybe a basket of your products, or something else. Your customers will have fun connecting with your company, plus you get a wealth of user-generated content for your website or YouTube channel.

Marketing for the holiday season doesn’t have to be hard as long as you get creative approach. What would resonate with your customers, and still give you a reasonable ROI for your efforts. Think creatively, and you’ll be able to conjure up lots of great ideas to fine-tune your marketing plans for the holiday season.