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Prepare for the Holiday Selling Season Now

Get your inventory in order early, to ensure you're ready for online shoppers.

The summer has just started. That means you have plenty of time before the busy holiday online selling season arrives, right? Wrong.

Fall will be here before you know it, and you’ll need to have your product listings ready to go, as Black Friday and Cyber Monday near. Both days are huge for online sellers.

Last year, buyers spent $816 million online on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, according to researcher comScore. On Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, consumers spent $1.25 billion. On Thanksgiving, a day traditionally reserved for family gatherings and big meals, buyers spent $479 million online. Shoppers are again expected to start buying early, and you want to be ready.

Below are a few ways you can prepare for the upcoming selling season to make your holidays a little brighter—and less stressful.

Back-to-school season can provide insight for the holidays, especially if you sell items aimed at kids or teens

Start early

Mid to late summer is the prime time to get started on preparations for the holiday online selling season. Some sellers start even earlier, notes Rebecca Miller, an eBay seller of more than 12 years.

“Some people start preparing for the next holiday season as soon as one holiday season ends,” she tells us. That’s when these merchants look at sales figures to review what sold well, what inventory they invested too much in, what they should avoid next time, etc. They also analyze the mistakes they made and how they can prevent these the next time around.

For Miller, the best time to start preparing for the holidays is July and August. “That’s when I really start going,” she notes. “You can see the selling season then, it’s so close.”

The ramp up begins with back-to-school season, she explains. During this time, you can find a lot of good products and insight into what will be hot for the holidays, especially if you sell items aimed at kids or teens.

Miller recommends talking to the kids and teens you know to see what brands and items they like—and want. Moms and dads might be in search of these items when November and December roll around.

“You really need to keep your ear to the ground,” Miller continues. “Check out what’s trending on Amazon and eBay, too.” Sites like eBay Pulse can be helpful here, as can trade magazines and seller forums.

Stick to what you know

But as you’re investigating potential trends, be careful of drifting too far from your area of expertise, Miller cautions. If you jump into selling products you don’t know much about, without thoroughly researching the market, you could end up with a lot of excess inventory—and you could lose money. This is especially true of clothing.

“You could come across a well-known brand and buy [a lot of items], and then come to find out that you bought the wrong color, or the wrong style,” Miller explains. “You were on the right trail, but you were blinded by the brand.”

Then you’re stuck with inventory that might not sell, even after the holidays.

Find sources of inventory, add holiday cheer

When you decide what you’ll be selling online, start looking for reliable product sources—and place your orders early, says Stephanie Inge, eBay education specialist and the founder of the Dallas eBaybes & eMales. Waiting too long could mean that the supplier you seek out in November or even late October won’t be able to take your orders because he’s out of stock or running low.
Have your holiday listings ready go live on Nov. 1 for eager shoppers who want to get the people on their lists crossed off quickly

Inge also suggests you start updating any listings you used last year that you know you’ll use this year, and start adding a seasonal cheer to your items with a holiday-themed template. If you have an online store, start thinking about changes to the home page that will make it warm, cheerful and “holiday-y.”

You also want to start updating your customer service policies and remind customers that you’re happy to combine shipping on multiple purchases and willing to ship to gift recipients—and consider offering gift wrapping as well, Inge continues.

As you’re making changes, emphasize your excellent customer service and fast shipping, she adds. The holidays can be a stressful time for buyers, and they’ll welcome the idea of working with a seller who will make their shopping experience easier.

Inge notes that you should have your holiday listings ready go live on Nov. 1. This way, eager shoppers who want to get the people on their lists crossed off quickly will have your inventory at their disposal.

Stock up on packing materials

You should also start getting your packing supplies together. To do this, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. In fact, you may not have to spend any money at all, Miller tells us. She reminds us that stores are often happy to give online sellers the boxes, air pillows, packing peanuts and other packing materials they get in shipments to their stores.

Giving them to you will help stores get the items off their hands at no cost. Just be sure to ask for their permission before going Dumpster diving.

Consider visiting a few types of stores, too. Furniture stores are a great source of packing supplies for larger items. Department stores are good source for smaller packaging.

Get the help you need

Finally, as you’re preparing for the upcoming selling season, consider joining an online sellers’ group on Facebook or in your community, Inge adds.

“Groups offer support, motivation and camaraderie, which are all very important to an eBay seller’s success,” she says.

How do you prepare for the holiday online selling season? Tell us in the comments below.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Common Sense

    There is no “holiday shopping season.”  There IS a CHRISTMAS shopping season.  But liberals have decided that “Christmas” is the Lord Voldemort of holidays – The Name That Shall Not Be Uttered!

    There is only one gift-giving holiday in December.  Christmas.  Channukah was always a relatively minor observance on the Jewish calendar and involved lighting candles and praying, not gift-giving.  Kwanzaa is a bogus, racist observance, but also one that does not involve gift-giving.

    So, how can someone write an entire article about a holiday that 95% of Americans spend hundreds of billions of dollars shopping for gifts for….without even once mentioning the NAME of the holiday??  It’s bizarre.

    • Considerate Pagan

       As a Harry Potter Seller, I like the idea of a Lord Voldemort of holidays! The reality is that Christmas is a commercially promoted holiday with pagan roots and traditions, such as the tree, wreath, and gift giving. Channukah also involves gift giving. The reason we shouldn’t name a specific holiday that focuses on one religion is that it is not the origin of the holiday season, nor is Christianity the only religion that celebrates during this time period, so the respectful thing to do is honor all traditions by not giving more attention to one than the others. You celebrate in your way, I celebrate in mine, and the millions of customers and readers celebrate in their own. I would not tell them how to spend their holidays, no one should. That is part of living in a “free” country.

  • I sell all new products and one of my top sellers is the bundle packages for xbox360, nintendo wii and ps3’s but come Thanksgiving, most of them are gone. If someone is looking for these as well as electronics, I say that they should have their orders before Thanksgiving because most will be gone by then.

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