The SMB Outlook on the Holiday Season

Allison Howen
by Allison Howen 06 Nov, 2015

Small business owners (SMBs) are optimistic about the holiday season according to a new survey from American Express.

The OPEN Holiday Growth Pulse, which is a survey of 1,000 small businesses with $250,000 or more in annual revenues, found that 55 percent of SMB owners say they will be just as successful as last year, while 37 percent say they will be more successful. This optimism is a good sign because the study also found that 54 percent of respondents say that their potential for business growth in 2016 will be contingent on a successful holiday season.

Additional survey data found that the number of SMBs stating growth as their top priority for their business has grown since August, rising the most among retailers. The biggest concern about growing during the holidays, however, is balancing holiday needs with long-range growth plans (19 percent). For retailers specifically, the main concerns involve maintaining appropriate inventory levels (24 percent) and facing pressure to discount or offer costly promotions (21 percent).

"Many small retailers have a positive outlook on the upcoming holiday season and see it as an opportunity for growth in 2016," said Janey Whiteside, SVP & GM customer marketing and relationship management, American Express OPEN. "As a majority of small business owners see growth as their top priority, we are proud to support their efforts to make this holiday season a success."

It is also important to note that SMB owners plan on rewarding employees this holiday season, with 53 percent planning to host a holiday party and 42 percent planning to give gifts. Moreover, 50 percent of respondents indicate that their employees can expect a bonus equivalent to less than 5 percent of their annual salary, while 23 percent of SMB owners expect to give a bonus equivalent to 5 - 15 percent of the employee's salary and 5 percent will give staff a bonus of more than 15 percent of their salary. Conversely, 22 percent will give no bonus at all.

Despite high expectations for holiday sales, however, 72 percent of SMBs are not planning on hiring additional staff. What's more, holiday success will be measured this season in multiple ways. In fact, 50 percent of SMBs consider adding new customers as their most important success metric, while 46 percent will measure success based on a specific sales goal. To achieve their sales goals, 40 percent of SMBs will leverage social media to market their business, while 30 percent plan to use email blasts and just 14 percent will use TV and radio advertising.