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Lighten Up, Dude, It's Christmas! Part 1

-- 2010-12-07 10:00 am --

The small business competes with some heavy hitters in the national mega stores. The personal touch, though, is lacking in the mega stores and here is where the small business can make Christmas a little merrier. By adding personal touches like small cards with Christmas figures and signed by the owner for each customer in their shopping bag or a Christmasy gift like a candle or a scented sachet, the small business can create a memory that will bring their customers back for more.

The mega stores have professional decorators "do" their stores for the holidays or they buy great amounts of stock decorations and keep them in the stockroom all year. It looks professional and is geared toward leading the customer's eye to large ticket items. Decorations like these have no warmth, though, and seem ordinary to most people. The small business owner can't match that but in that lies his strength. Decorations are decorations no matter how you arrange them but the personal touch is where the small business owner can create a market that will return throughout the year. Handmade garlands made of a few items sold in the business make a unique Christmas tree decoration and endears the customer to the imaginative decorator. This would work well with tiny cupcakes in a bakery, for example, or in a handicrafts shop.

Every small business owner makes an effort to learn his customers' names. Asking about the customer's baby's cold or his wife's sister in Seattle lets the customer know he's not just another ch-ching on the cash register. At Christmas this can stand the owner in good stead when he decorates. Bells cut out of construction paper and outlined along the edges with customers' names and hung throughout the store gives everyone a sense of belonging sadly needed in these days. Personal notes on personal stationery concerning upcoming sales mailed to customers instead of a cold email no one pays attention to anyway go far toward creating or retaining a market long after the holidays have passed.

Christmas is about more than just Santa madly dancing with Mrs. Claus in the window. It's about more than just the lights. It's about how the lights make you feel when you look at them in the store. If the lights showcase a nativity scene, for example, that creates a hush and a feeling of awe. If the lights form angels they make people look around them to find the angels dressed up as humans. If the lights form a sleigh, people think of playing in the snow with their children and they resolve to go home and throw a snowball at their kids. So lighten up, dude!

The small business owner has an opportunity to create here and reach out personally and that is one thing mega stores don't do. In a world where technology rules and digital is king, the personal touch is slowly coming back through people who care about other people and light up their lives.