Break out the tinsel and bake up the pies — it's time for the holidays! From coast to coast, small business owners in the U.S. are gearing up for their busiest (and most profitable) time of the year. We polled small businesses from cities, suburbs, and rural areas and found that whether they're dressing city sidewalks in holiday style or walking through a winter wonderland in the woods, they all share exciting holiday planning practices and worrying stresses in common.
Small Business Holiday Marketing Across the U.S.
We asked small business owners to give us the details on how they're getting ready for the most wonderful time of the year and looked closely at how holiday planning, preparation, and stress differs based on location and other factors. Let’s dive in.
Close to 80% of Small Business Owners Offer Holiday Time Off for Employees
This interesting statistic shows that small business owners are concerned with their employees' well-being — as we also discovered in a previous survey — and want to make sure they have time off with their families during this season. The numbers were nearly the same across city, rural, and suburban businesses, though rural businesses were slightly more likely to offer holiday leave.
85% of Small Business Owners Hire Seasonal Employees...But It Isn't Always Easy
Just 15% of our respondents said they don't hire seasonal workers. A slim majority of respondents (34%) said it was harder to find help this year than in years previous. However, a further 28% said it's been easier, and 23% claim it's been the same.
Interestingly, men business owners were much more likely than women business owners to report difficulties in hiring temporary workers. However, overall, city business owners were more likely to say seasonal hiring has been easier (32% reporting), while rural and suburban business owners said it's been harder (36% and 37%, respectively).
Hiring Isn't the Biggest Challenge — It's Making Sales
Business owners across the board said boosting sales is their top concern this holiday season, with 39% saying it's their main priority and cause of stress. Difficulty with hiring was a more distant second at 24%, followed closely by supply chain issues at 22%. Just 15% said they have no challenges heading into the holidays.
The breakdown is similar for rural and suburban businesses, but city businesses were even more likely to report sales as their biggest stressor, possibly because they don't have the same issue with hiring as their suburban and rural counterparts.
Nearly 70% of Small Businesses Are Running Holiday Promotions
The holiday season means sales and deals, especially for retail businesses. The top three in the U.S. are Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday. Close to 70% of all our respondents said they would be running a promotion for Black Friday or Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday.
City respondents were slightly more likely to run these promotions, as were male business owners in all business locations.
The Season of Giving Inspires 77% of Small Business Owners to Make Charitable Donations
More than three-quarters of small business owners will be making a donation this season. This is significant because after so many businesses struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can now see their resilience and generosity in full force.
City business owners were the most likely to give this season (79%), but suburban business owners and rural business owners weren't far behind (77% and 76%, respectively). Men were slightly more likely (around 8% more likely) to donate than women.
Women Business Owners May Take a More Relaxed Approach to Preparing for the Holidays
Another interesting insight our survey revealed is that women business owners have a little bit more chill than their male counterparts when it comes to holiday business planning. They were 50% more likely than men to say they had no challenges this season. They were also 33% more likely to respond that they are doing nothing new or different to plan for the holidays for their business.
Perhaps most surprising, women business owners were also the most likely (nearly twice the number of men) to say they haven't started their holiday business and marketing planning yet.
Business Owners — Especially Millennials — Feel Connected to and Supported by Their Communities
Here's a heartwarming statistic for the cozy season: 87% of all small business owners feel supported by their local community. That number was the same for business owners in the city, suburbs, and rural areas.
Also of note, the largest age demographic reporting that they felt this connection was 25-44 (70%), which primarily fall into the Millennial generation. This implies that Millennials are among the most involved and thriving members of their communities.
Ecommerce Is Big This Season — Thanks to COVID-19, 90% of Millennial Biz Owners Started Their Online Store
As one of the positives of COVID-19, ecommerce is booming. Our survey showed that one in four small business owners set up an online shop for the first time this year. Perhaps not surprisingly, online stores and ecommerce sites were most common among the younger age groups, from 18-44 (90%), with only 10% of the 45+ groups saying they'd done the same.
Among those with both a brick-and-mortar and an ecommerce business, over half (57%) said that the majority of sales comes through their website. Business owners in the city were more likely to say they had more online sales than suburban and rural owners, but the difference was minimal.
Competition Is Fierce This Time of Year
Peace on earth and goodwill to all men (and women)? Sure, that's how the holidays go at home, but in business, it's a time to get ahead of the competition. While 37% of all business owners said they're introducing new products this year to earn more sales, over half (55%) cited this as the number one way they're planning to beat their competitors. Increased marketing/ad dollars (54%) and special sales (54%) both came in close behind, but loyalty programs trailed at just 20%.
City business owners were more likely to utilize new products to beat the competition, while rural business owners were more likely to lean on sales and price matching.
Businesses Are Feeling Merry and Bright Ahead of the Holidays
While there are certainly many stressors and challenges facing business owners as we enter the Q4 holiday shopping season, we also found plenty to be thankful for. That includes more charitable giving, more community involvement and connection, and more digital adoption. We look forward to hearing from our customers and learning how their season went in the new year.
Incfile polled 1,000 small business owners from four major industries, including ecommerce/retail, hospitality, professional services, and real estate. Of our respondents, a majority operated small businesses with 1-9 employees (58%), with just over a third having 10-50 employees. A much smaller amount (7%) selected themselves as consultants or solopreneurs.
Wendi is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, IN, with over a decade of experience writing for a variety of industries from healthcare to manufacturing to nonprofit. When she isn't working on solutions for her clients, she can be found spending time with her kids and husband, working in the garden or doing more writing (of the fiction variety).