The final countdown: How small businesses can secure more year-end sales before the clock strikes 12

Monday, November 29, 2021

If you work in the retail industry, you know that it’s beyond tempting to take a breath and kick up your feet come Christmas Day. And hey — you deserve it after a busy holiday season! But that season hasn’t wrapped quite yet. As our friends in the restaurant industry know all too well, you’ve got six more days of the year to conquer. We want to help you not just survive, but thrive through them and finish the year strong with these tips. Read on for how to:

  • 1. Create a retail returns process that keeps customers loyal

  • 2. Refresh your space for the new year

  • 3. Add content marketing to your marketing strategy

  • 4. Give back to your community while engaging customers

  • 5. Secure last-minute event bookings

  • 6. Plan a New Year’s Eve event and promote through digital marketing

  • 7. Incentivize staff to reach year-end goals

Tips for retailers

Create a smooth process for returns

Returns are inevitable, and how you handle them can have a serious impact on your customer relationships. If you create a positive return experience, you’re actually more likely to turn that return into an additional purchase.

  • If you expect continued heavy traffic, create a designated line or space for returns with a separate point of sale station.

  • Keep your return policy visible at the cash wrap, so you can easily reference it should a customer ask (or argue).

  • Know when to make exceptions. Sometimes, it isn’t worth the fight, so tell the customer you will offer a one-time exception. Then, add a note to the customer profile in your point of sale, which helps you keep an eye on chronic returners.

  • What about ecommerce returns? Accept them at all of your physical locations. This is why it’s critical to have a POS that syncs inventory and orders across all channels. Those solutions can recognize the original point of purchase, so they can source the return to the original sale location but put the inventory back into the physical location that accepted the return.

73% of shoppers say the overall returns experience impacts their likelihood to purchase from a retailer again.

Remerchandise and refresh

Take down the tinsel and refresh your window display. Do the same with your online marketing too: Replace your website’s holiday imagery and content with a new-year theme.

If you plan to hold a post-Christmas sale, create those sale sections, and clearly label them with bold signage. Move any new products to the front of the store, and if you don’t have much fresh inventory, remerchandise your existing displays so returning customers aren’t walking into the same store they saw a week or two ago.

Give your store a good clean too! Get rid of those dust bunnies hiding in corners and fix the broken lightbulb you’ve been putting off. Make your space a place people want to spend time browsing.

Create New Year’s Eve content

Content marketing is a fantastic way to drive sales by providing people with knowledge, entertainment or something else of value, without being overly “sales-y.” It’s a more organic way to show customers how the products or services you’re selling will fit into their lives. If you haven’t already tried this type of marketing in your social media posts, now is a perfect time to give it a whirl. Think about how you can weave your products into New Year’s-themed content. Maybe that’s a carousel of your best new year party outfits, easy hostess gifts or how to decorate for a new year’s party. You could record a reel featuring a cocktail recipe or New Year’s Day brunch ideas. Target homebodies with a post about how to ring in the new year at home (and the essentials you need to do it well).

Tips for restaurants

Hold a donation drive for your local food pantry

Invite guests to bring in non-perishable food that you’ll donate to the pantry. Give everyone who does so a discount on their meal that day, like 10% off the bill or $2 for each can donated. You could also advertise that you’ll be donating a percentage of each check that week directly to the organization.

Offer discounts on event space

If your restaurant has private rooms for group gatherings, you likely saw a December full of holiday parties. But if you still have availability for the week following Christmas, put them on “sale.” Email your customer list and let them know that you’ll either offer a discounted room rental fee, a reduced food and beverage minimum or a percentage off of large group checks.

Promote New Year’s Eve

This is the time of year people scramble if they don’t yet have New Year’s Eve plans, so take advantage of that. Even if you aren’t hosting an official event, create a themed menu, or just add a few special dishes and cocktails for the evening. A fun way to promote this would be through a social media giveaway: Create an Instagram post that requires people to follow you and tag a friend they’d like to spend the holiday with as their entry. Select one winner to receive a gift card and reservation for the night.

Not only is this kind of social media marketing great for advertising the event, but you’ll likely also see those new followers turn into new customers next year.

Create staff incentives

Keep your staff in the loop about your end-of-year goals, and incentivize them to increase check sizes with daily contests. Challenge them to sell more desserts — whoever sells the most within a shift receives a Visa gift card. Push for more “perfect” checks (beverage, starter, main course and dessert) by rewarding a bonus once you’ve secured a certain number. Talk to your team about what other gifts or rewards would be most motivating to them, and get more tips for increasing your average check size.

The countdown is on! We know the past year has been trying for small business owners, and we hope these store operations and marketing ideas will help you end it on a high note. Happy new year from our family to yours — we wish you all the best in the 2022!


Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at heartland.us