The holiday retail season has been going strong for weeks, and now the final stretch is here. But don’t go counting any chickens just yet—there’s still plenty of shopping left. For many retailers, December 23rd is the busiest day of the year (and December 24th is no calm day, either, since plenty of slackers save their shopping for the very last minute).

With two of the most important shopping days of the season left, it’s crucial that you finish strong. Here’s a few thoughts on ensuring a successful finale to your holiday retail season.

Last minute shoppers look disproportionately for gift cards. The Black Friday shoppers are looking for deals. The late November shoppers are prepared with a list. But the later we get into the season, the more we see browsers who are looking for inspiration more than anything.

In the end, many of these people will end up choosing gift cards, so make sure you have them on display and can accommodate anyone who’s looking for them quickly. If you don’t have gift cards, there may still be time to get them set up before the December 23rd rush. At the very least, get started now to set up the program so that you don’t go through the same issue next year.

Keep your staff happy. The holidays can be memorable and fun—the family, the food, the memories. But they can also be tough if you’re working in industries like retail. The crowds can seem relentless, and some customers can be difficult, and sometimes it starts to take a toll.

Customer service is a crucial part of turning first-time visitors to return customers, and you’ll have plenty of new visitors during the holidays. So you need to keep your employees happy to keep your customers happy. There’s any number of methods retailers use to lift employee spirits: keep them focused on the light at the end of the tunnel by promising some vacation time after New Years; maybe throw a party, either now or in early 2017; some employers even offer a holiday bonus. At the very least, tell your employees you appreciate their hard work throughout the season. You know your store best, so you know what method will work—just make sure you do something to keep spirits high through the final days.

Sweat the small stuff. We know—usually it's the opposite advice. But for most retailers, the big stuff has already been done to get this far in the retail season. At this point, you need to make sure you don’t lose focus on the things that sag a bit during the stretch run: inventory, decorations, even re-stocking and product appearance. It can be hard to focus as you get dazed from the first month of holiday shopping, but if you start letting too many things get away from you, your results will suffer.

You’re almost there! Stay strong through the end, and your business will be all the better for it as you start 2017.

Good luck!

​​3 Thoughts on Thriving During the Holiday Stretch Run