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Black Friday and Cyber Monday are huge for businesses big and small. Record sales, record discounts, everyone gets swept up in the frenzy. Let me throw a stat at you – consumers this Friday are predicted to spend in excess of one billion. Can you even believe that?!

The whole Black Friday and Cyber Monday phenomenon started in the US with Thanksgiving “holiday shopping sprees”, but online shopping obviously means that location doesn’t matter anymore. UK retailers have been forced to join the fray (and if you have an online shop you’ve got to reduce in your bricks and mortar stores… you can see how it all snowballs!). It’s really changed the way of retailing over the Christmas period for so many businesses, and not always for the better. I’ve been really interested to see the Black Friday backlash happening this year with retailers like Asda and Fatface publicly ducking out altogether. The thing is that it means consumers tend not to spend much throughout November, as they’re holding out to see the Black Friday discounts. So worst-case scenario, you can end up with a rotten November, a really artificial 4-day spike, and then a slump throughout December too! But – and there is a but – there are key strategies to help small businesses keep their heads this weekend, and not get edged out by big box competition.

You have the advantage of being close to the customer, with levels of customer service and support. Get the word out all on all your social media channels, stay open later if you think you need to and discount where you can afford to. Or add in thoughtful “buy one get one free” options – maybe with candles and candle holders. This is optimising what you have and enhancing the customer experience without having to slash your margins! You’ve got to think beyond just this weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and have a model that’s best for you and for your customer all year round.

Don’t try and keep up with big boys when it comes to huge discounts. They have much more leverage and stock to shift than us smaller fish, so do what I do – ignore the big competitors and stay strong. We are also fortunate that our customer base is not driven by a BOGOF frenzy. Quite a few of our products actually can’t be found in many other retailers, so we avoid price wars that way!

Stay stong. Make sure consumers know when the sale is happening, but don’t get caught into discounting before the sale begins or after it ends The sale beings at that said time and date and finishes at that said time and date. Stay firm with your boundaries on this.

Lastly don’t think you can’t compete with the big boys. Yes, maybe you don’t have large marketing budgets or tons of electrical products to shift – but you can offer a higher level of personalised service and dare I say product. It’s those products that make your business unique and when people are shopping for the holiday season they want unique not generic. Who doesn’t want to open some beautiful gift that isn’t on the shelves of every single other retailer? You want friends and family to think you’ve made an effort with the gift you’ve chosen by seeking out the unusual and unique and that’s where you guys come in with your businesses.

Bottom line is there isn’t a one size fits all approach to Black Friday and Cyber Monday – just don’t get caught in the frenzy and panic and think you have to slash everything. You’ve still got to make a profit otherwise you won’t have a sustainable business.

What are we doing, you might ask? Well, our approach has been a combo of:

Manageable discounts 15% – 20% off nearly all products online and in store, but this is strictly time-limited from 10:00am Friday to 10:00pm Monday. I was adamant we wouldn’t cave and run them earlier in the week – even as we saw other retailers cutting prices left, right and centre all week!

Customer events we threw a party at Heal’s yesterday evening, so we got to celebrate our new botanical bar and Christmas wreaths, plus there was also 20% off on the night! This is a very time-limited offer, but a fun way to give back to customers and create a bit of a buzz too.

One-off products the flash sale is major discounts on one-offs, sample pieces and other unique clearance items. This will be going live for everyone later this morn, so it’s one more string to the Black Friday bow.

As you can see I definitely don’t think you need to eschew Black Friday altogether (and if you dig down into the details of Fatface, Asda etc. you’ll see that they’ve nearly all got another promotion or marketing stunt lined up instead). But make it fun for your customer and give them an incentive to spend without slashing to loss-level prices or screwing up all your December sales figures. Stick to your guns, and go with the flow on this one. See you on the other side!