Many Small Businesses Say Shutdown Puts Them Behind on Holiday Planning

The federal shutdown has long since ended, with a somewhat amicable resolution, and many of the regular services that were denied to small businesses during that time have returned to normal operation. However, many entrepreneurs nationwide now say that the brief period of difficulty may have put them well and truly behind the 8-ball when it comes to properly preparing for the holiday shopping season.

A large number of small businesses across the country rely heavily on the revenues they enjoy in the relatively narrow window of the holiday shopping season to buoy them financially over the course of the entire year, but the shutdown may have put a damper on that, according to a new survey of owners from the online small business community Manta. For instance, only 13 percent of owners say they’re optimistic that sales this year will be able to exceed 2012’s figures as a direct result of the shutdown, and exactly half say they expect the fallout will prompt consumers to spend less on a per-person basis. Last year, by contrast, half of owners said they expected revenues to increase from 2011.

While 50 percent also say they will not change the ways in which they approach promotions as a result of this potentially difficult financial climate caused by the shutdown, the other half of owners polled said that they’re going to be more proactive in a number of ways, the report said. For instance, 11 percent are now going to start their sales or other promotions earlier than they did last year, and the same number is going to rely more heavily on social media than they have in the past. Another 8 percent say they’re going to beef up their email marketing campaigns for other customers.

What attracts consumers?
Today, 35 percent of small business owners say they think price is the biggest driver of customer spending, while slightly less than one in four cited customer service, the report said. Another 11 percent responded that they believe online reviews will be most crucial to directing consumers to them this holiday season.

Young people, meanwhile, are believed to be drivers in a different way, the report said. Close to three in 10 small business owners believe that those under the age of 35 will rely heavily on their mobile devices to make shopping decisions, and another 15 percent say these people are more likely to be attracted by video advertising. Consequently, one in five entrepreneurs now expects they will see an uptick in transactions involving mobile devices in some way, whether it’s buying directly through those handsets or using coupons offered exclusively through them.

“We’re seeing the astounding effects of the continued shift to online holiday shopping – especially from mobile devices – to the small business community,” said Kristy Campbell, director of marketing at Manta. “It’s encouraging to see the business owners in our community gaining an understanding about how their online actions impact their business – from their online presence on sites like Manta, to the impact of online reviews, to selling goods, and running promotions online. With the changing demographics and mobile habits of Millennials coming to the forefront, these trends will continue to accelerate and gain importance.”

Many owners may also be able to make sure their companies are ready to deal with any potential financial fallout from the shutdown by finding more affordable small business insurance. Cutting costs for general liability insurance and other such policies can save thousands of dollars per year and put these enterprises on much firmer ground going forward.