Big Box, who? Indies rule this holiday season!


By Candace D’Agnolo, CEO of Dogaholics

Some big shopping holidays are coming up (Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday) and if you aren’t a big box retail business it may feel like there’s no need to even participate.

Think again! Whether you sell via a storefront, online shop or through services, you should participate in them all.

Yes, shoppers are looking for really good deals, so this is a prime opportunity to explore discounting products and services. But even if you aren’t comfortable offering discounts there are lots of ways to still stand out from the competition.

This season can belong to you, the awesome independent business, and here’s how:

Black Friday – November 25

This big box shopping holiday is for the deal-driven, crowd-loving, gift-giving enthusiasts who get up early, wait in long lines, and love traffic. Here are some ideas how you can best grab their attention:


Start Early & Save Big Sale :With this sales model, the biggest deals start early. For the first two hours, run a huge discount, then the discount decreases every two hours until you close. For example: 20% off 10a-12p, 15% off 12p-2p, 10% off 2p-4p and 5% off 4p-6p.

Incentivize Increased Spending: Offer an increase in discount based on how much they spend. You can do a percentage off: spend $50, get 10% off. Spend $100, get 15% off. Spend $150, get 20% off. Or you can come up with your own business “Monopoly” money and give fake store dollars (i.e., gift certificates) of a $ amount to use with a future purchase, like your own “Doggy Dollars” in increments of $10s and $20s. So when people spend $50, you can give them $10 in Doggy Dollars to use at a later date.

The perk of doing a discount on your whole shop is that you’ll get a good idea for what the hot holiday sellers will be in December. You’ll have a pulse on the items to not only reorder and stock up on, but also the items that people didn’t react to that should maybe be re-merchandised or have their price-points changed.


Be their “Relax & Restore Pit Stop”: Create a relaxing environment in comparison to what they are experiencing out in the Black Friday jungle by offering complimentary water, cold drinks, and snacks. Get a gift certificate to a local spa for a massage and use it as a raffle that all purchases in your store can enter. You can even give each person a bounce back coupon to the salon.

black-dogHave a Pop up Shop: If you don’t sell any merchandise or want to feature a particular vendor, host a pop up table or a pop up shop in your space! Partner with a local vendor to sample out or sell unique merchandise.

Host “Black Dog Friday”: Black dogs are statistically the last to be adopted out from animal shelters, so use the name of the day to honor and raise awareness of black dogs. Collect donations for a local animal shelter, maybe even have them bring a few adoptable black dogs or pick a dog from their shelter to feature/sponsor. As a company, you can even match your client’s donations. This will also be a great PR and photo opportunity post event to share.

Small Business Saturday – November 26

Started by American Express in 2010, this shopping holiday is all about celebrating local merchants and has increased consumer recognition of shopping small to kick off the holiday shopping season.

It’s not necessary to give discounts; instead, use the day to share your unique story and to say thank you to your customers.


Give everyone a small gift with purchase: It can be a plant, a dog toy or treat, a bag of sweets, or a coupon for future shopping. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money; it’s the gesture that counts.

Include a personal letter from you in their shopping bags: Use it to tell your story, what makes your business unique, thank them for supporting you and encourage them to continue supporting their local independent retailers the rest of the holiday season.

Promote your community: Share a list of your favorite local businesses to shop.

Thanksgiving Register Spotlight 13.jpeg

Cyber Monday – November 28

Since 2005, the Monday after Thanksgiving is known as Cyber Monday, and is an online-only shopping day. There are a few ways that independent businesses can still take part in Cyber Monday, even if you don’t have an online store.

No online store? No problem! Use Facebook: The majority of Americans have a Facebook account, so if you’re not using your business’s Facebook page to sell, you’re missing out on an easy way to grab audience! Log into your Facebook page, and find the “Shop” tab. Set up a Stripe or Paypal account, and start uploading products! It’s really easy to get started. Just pick just a few items that you want to feature, items that are unique to your business, or your best sellers. Then, put a little extra budget behind boosting these items.

Do a Facebook Live video from your business: Talk about and show all the amazing things you have in store or on offer. Make sure to tell them to call in now and you’ll be happy to take their order over the phone. Offer free shipping! No online store or website even needed.

Don’t sell any items? Do a gift card promotion: Create a gift card item on your website or on Facebook, and offer to apply credit to your customers’ accounts. For example, on Cyber Monday only you could offer everyone an extra $20 for every $100 they spend. This is easy to apply for existing clients and easy for you to mail out cards to them the next day, if they choose that option.

There are so many ways to get involved in what are traditionally big box holidays – with just a little creativity, the right plan and a strong marketing effort to get the word out, you can compete with the big boxes this season!

For a full run down on a great gift card promotion and for other sales tips on to make the most of the holiday season – download your free guide here!



1candaceIn addition to being the CEO of Dogaholics, Candace D’Agnolo is a successful business coach, author, and speaker.  She started Dogaholics as a retail store, and took her initial concept of a brick and mortar location and turned it into multiple revenue streams – retail, services, online informational products, books, merchandise, and now business consulting. Candace is also a board member of Chicago Canine Rescue and loves giving back to her local community. She has helped raise over $200,000 for shelter dogs and find many forever homes. Having a way to give back through her business has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.

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