Holidays not always jolly for entrepreneurs

Many of us encounter additional stress when it comes to the holidays. Exchanging gifts, traveling and dealing with family and friends can increase the pressure people feel during this time of year. For those owning their own businesses, the holidays have their own stressors.

For most retailers, the holidays determine how successful they are for the entire year. It is not unusual for merchants to count on the holiday sales season for half or more of their revenue.

Five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Hanukkah starting earlier this year compared to last year, also contribute to the stress.

Ralph Smothers, president of Ralph’s Joy of Living, experiences some of those stressors.

“The end of year is always a bit more stressful, probably due to Black Friday,” Smothers said. “Obviously, being in the housewares business, ordering, unpacking and stocking shelves, making sure we order the right amount of product based on previous year’s sales is always stressful. We always want the shelves to look full. It is very challenging.”

In addition, some of the big retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy and Target decided to open Thanksgiving night, potentially taking business away from local smaller businesses that did not open until the next day. Competition from online retail sales also adds to traditional brick and mortar retailers’ woes.

But there is a unique opportunity for small businesses, according to Ronald Goodstein, marketing professor at Georgetown University.

“With consumer confidence down this year, people will give fewer gifts but more meaningful ones,” he said. “The competitive advantage for small businesses is the ability to provide personalized service. They can help customers pick that thoughtful, relevant gift in a way that Macy’s, Walmart or Target can’t.”

More shoppers mean more sales – but it also means more shoplifting.

While it accounts for the largest percentage of sales, the holiday season is also when the majority of shoplifting occurs. Alcohol, women’s clothing and fashion accessories, and toys top the list of most commonly stolen goods from retailers.

Restaurants, hotels, personal services such as salons and business-service providers such as accountants and lawyers, can be busy during the holiday season.

Adam Smith, general manager and owner of Carmie’s Grill and Bar, said his catering and party business picks up during this time of year and it also means more hours for his staff.

He tells his employees “we need to eat stress for lunch” when it comes to handling the additional work during the holidays.

Not everybody is busier during the holiday season. Dale Depew, owner of Seneca Cleaners and Seneca Printing Co., said his business declines during the holidays.

“At the cleaners, most of our work is from business people or educators and administrators,” he said. “Our customers often work less during the holidays and, therefore, bring fewer clothes for us to clean and press.”

Also, it is quite common for print shops to close between Christmas and New Year’s due to lack of activity.

In addition to their own stress, entrepreneurs deal with managing employees who are dealing with the strain of the holidays in their lives. Workplace violence increases during the holidays. And employees are often asking for more time off to spend with their families at the time the business needs them the most.

“At this time of year, important and critical decisions are required by entrepreneurs such as preparing for the year-end, taxes, analyzing business performance, the question of whether to give holiday or year-end bonuses, and even how to celebrate the holidays with employees” according to Lisa Kahle-Piasecki, assistant professor of management and information systems at Tiffin University.

For entrepreneurs, the pressure of making the business successful is always on their shoulders.

“Entrepreneurs need to be certain to take care of their health, remain positive and confident, practice time-management and even meditation, and tap into what they value and their sense of purpose. During this time of year, they need to recharge and relax which is hard to do, but necessary” Kahle-Piascecki said.

Perry Haan is professor of marketing and entrepreneurship, and former dean of the business school at Tiffin University. He can be reached at (419) 618-2867 or