Did you know that most retailers start planning for the holidays now? That means planning out displays, promotions, and brand features, all while most of us are still sweating under the summer heat. As founders, we usually find ourselves reacting to our business week by week, but it can cause us to miss out on opportunities because we don’t plan far enough out.
I sat down with Sari Kimbell from Food Business Success on her podcast to discuss what you need to think about with retail and E-commerce planning for the holidays.
Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at Foodbevy.com to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.
Sari Kimbell: I know that's a little bit of a different intro, but I wanted to shake you up a little bit and get you into the mood to talk about the holidays and I'm so excited I get to sit down with Jordan Buckner of Foodbevy and we are gonna talk shop and everything you need to know about holiday planning. And if you wanna get my holiday checklist, go to foodbizsuccess.com/holiday. Hey, welcome to a special bonus episode. I very last minute reached out to Jordan Buckner, a Foodbevy, and said, Hey, can we have a conversation about holidays and getting ready for the holidays? And he was like, yeah, let's do it. So, welcome, Jordan [00:01:00] to the podcast.
Jordan Buckner: Thank you. And of course I'm like, holidays, Sarah, it's July.
Why should I be thinking about holidays already? I have a whole another six months to go.
Sari Kimbell: Right? That's the problem, right? We're all in our consumer brain, our just like our shopper brain, but we're not in our retail. I'm a brand brain, so that's why every year I have been putting on crazy holiday sweaters in the middle of July and cranking the AC up.
Yes. And taking photos and videos to try to remind people that holiday planning starts now and I'm gonna let people tell. Why don't you tell people a little bit, just some quick background. You've already been on the podcast I coach in your program and we do a lot of stuff together, but just. Introduce yourself.
Jordan Buckner: Definitely. Well, Sarah, as you know, I am on a mission to help founders grow their businesses from startup to scale and do that through Foodbevy, which is an online community for food and beverage [00:02:00] founders. And I love helping founders think about the problems and the obstacles that they are currently facing or going to face in the future and help them overcome that through various tools like building a community, doing masterminds. Workshops doing group coaching, which you help lead and all around just helping brands make this journey of building their companies a lot easier. And then as we also talk about I previously ran my own CPG brand TeaSquares for six years. So I have a lot of experience to share from that.
And then currently I also have another e-commerce brand, joyful Co, which is a curated gift box where we create gifts for various holidays and occasions throughout the year.
Sari Kimbell: Awesome. So you have such a wealth of knowledge and I just thought this will be a more engaging conversation than me just running through a list.
And of course, if people wanna get the full checklist, it's at foodbizsuccess.com/holiday. And I just thought it'd be fun to partner with you because your community is amazing and we'll put the link in [00:03:00] the show notes for that. But, I figured like, let's do this together.
Jordan Buckner: Well, and I love it. It's perfect timing because I have been completely guilty myself of poorly planning for holidays from a business standpoint. And so I think this is awesome to get into what founders should be thinking about right now to make their lives easier.
Sari Kimbell: So when I was at Whole Foods Market as the marketing director, I was probably right about this time of year, was sitting in meetings at the regional office.
About our holiday plan and I needed to have a full plan baked, you know, it doesn't mean you execute everything, but you understand exactly what you're gonna be doing for that season. In the case of the store, what decorations I needed, what end caps we were gonna do, what new product launches, all that good stuff.
And so by August I was like, Ready to go and feeling confident. But we all know what usually happens for founders is it's like, oh, I'll get to it, I'll get to it, I'll get to it. And then what? End of [00:04:00] September, October, also Halloween. And you're like, crap.
Jordan Buckner: Well, and can I just say like how I think surprising that is for a lot of founders who were going through it for the first time, because at least for me, right?
Like I was running my business. Maybe like a month out if that, and really like week by week being so reactionary. And when I sat down for planning sessions with TeaSquares, we may think about like, yeah, we should plan to do things for holidays and Black Friday, but didn't have a strict kind of plan on how to actually execute that or fully think it out.
And to know that retailers are thinking about and planning holidays. Six months plus in advance. Then year even. Yeah, year in advance. Like that is, it's mind blowing for a lot of founders who're like, I don't know if I'm gonna be around in a year. Oh, I'm like a year old. Like, how do I think that far ahead?
And so I'd love to hear what you think in terms of like what founders need to do to be successful.
Sari Kimbell: Yeah. , you know, I do. Coaching in your program. If we think about the model, if you're, you know, the circumstance is just [00:05:00] holidays.
Let's take Black Friday, right? Big holiday. That's , a one that many brands wanna engage in. If you wait until it's, you know, , you're, button up against Some deadlines and now your feeling is stressed and emergency and you know, and then you're frustrated and beating up on yourself.
It's like the actions you're taking are so not in alignment with what you're trying to create, which is more sales. Right? And so if we can be the c e o of our business now and pause and say, I know I got all this other stuff going on, but let me take. I mean, it doesn't have to take that long, maybe a half a day to really think about your plan and what do you wanna do, and then you're gonna be so much more ahead of the game.
You're gonna be thinking about partnerships and opportunities, and you're not gonna be paying like last minute emergency fees and missing out.
Jordan Buckner: Well, and I think it really starts with understanding like what are your goals for the holidays Yeah. And what you want to get out of it. So that's really clear what the point of all [00:06:00] this really, really is.
So you have a clear understanding of like, oh, this is actually important for my business. Or maybe in some cases it's a little less important, right? Yeah. Depending on what your products are. And so I think that's really key to kind of start with , those top level goals. Yeah. That you can really be aligned in your team , on what you're gonna be doing.
Sari Kimbell: Yeah. Cuz I have a couple brands I'm like, they're like, yeah, my holiday really isn't until January. I'm more of the New Year's resolution kind of thing. And that's great, but still get ahead of it, right? Maybe Black Friday's not , your main thing. So the checklist I give people breaks it down and into couple of categories, and you have expertise in a couple of them, but the checklist is really about.
Wholesale, so I'm selling into retailer and then that direct to consumer, which is oftentimes online through various channels, and then also markets, right? And , that's what I love. Right? That's my jam. Yeah. But I think that holiday markets can be such a great way to improve your cashflow, , get things going.
So looking for fall holiday popups [00:07:00] and farmers' markets that might be in your area.
Jordan Buckner: No, I think that's awesome. So I know you talked through like what to do for wholesale. Direct to consumer e-commerce, and I'd love some of these other things that a lot of founders don't really think about. So at TeaSquares of one of our top holiday partners was a curate gift box service.
And, I think in like, December, like they usually put in a po, there's like $25,000 of product, which was huge for us and was able to negate the drop in sales that we had from just like our D V C business, we was selling energy bars, right? And so fewer people are looking for energy bars during like the holiday times.
But by being part of this gift box service, it allowed us to see actually an increase in revenue for that month instead of a decline because we had this partnership. And so I love. Things like that.
Sari Kimbell: Oh, I love that example. Let's just take that a little bit further because those partnerships probably start long before October, right?
You have to be having those conversations, those companies working out gift baskets. And I work with a gal [00:08:00] in fuel, Maggie, and she puts together fuel boxes for us, and she has her own gift boxing with dose margaritas, salsa. Little shout out to her. You know, we're talking about that now. Because then we need all this lead time, right?
Like they have to work it out and get all the pricing and they gotta get all the commitments, and then you get the po. And then you have to provide product long before those boxes ever go out, right?
Jordan Buckner: Completely. And so I think those relationships happen like early in the gear. And so start thinking about that now.
As you mentioned, start reaching out to those gifting companies. See what they are, because it'll have times, I'll tell you, having a. Curated gift box company. Now it's around about people being top of mind to say, Hey, that's a really unique product. I'd love to try to fix that in if possible.
Sari Kimbell: And you worked, did you work with a co-packer for TeaSquares or were you making them yourself?
Jordan Buckner: For the most part, we made them ourselves. Okay. That's a whole nother story about going back and forth with co-packers,
Sari Kimbell: but well, either way. However, like product has to be made. So either you gotta start planning ahead for, then you gotta [00:09:00] buy ingredients well before, right? If you back it all the way up, I need to get product to them by end of October.
What? I gotta book time in my kitchen. I need to make sure I have help if that's what you're gonna have. I need to make sure I have ingredients and packaging. Oh, the packaging company takes six weeks, right? So we back it all the way up and we're basically in July.
Jordan Buckner: So , Sarah, here's one of my questions for you.
When thinking about retail and planning around holidays, like what can brands really start to do to think how their brands might show up in the retailers that they're selling in?
Sari Kimbell: Well, I think it's important to think about trends and where you can fit in to that sort of holiday scheme. Whether you're gifty, you know, are you a great giftable or are you part of that holiday meal?
I mean, You know, whole Foods Market. Thanksgiving was our number one holiday with Christmas and New Year's being kinda of the latter ones. I mean they were still big, but you know that those foodie holidays, yes. Right. So do you fit into that keto baking [00:10:00] set Right, that they're maybe focused on cuz that's a trend or do you fit into that specialty department with their chocolates and their, you know, fun little
gift things that they put together.
Jordan Buckner: I love that. What are some of the things that you can do though? Like can you reach out to the buyers there and just say like, asking them like, Hey, we love to participate. What opportunities do you have? Or is it kind of coming to them with like fully bake out ideas?
Sari Kimbell: I think, you know, earlier the better if you wanna kind of. Bounce ideas around. But cuz think about it, you know, if you're like, oh, let's go ahead and do a four pack of our chocolates, now we gotta think about packaging and we gotta think about other things. We gonna get the product in the system and you know, or if you wanna do a exclusive flavor that's just for that store or something like that.
So the earlier the better on those conversations. But certainly right now you could reach out to your buyers at any of your stores and say, Hey, I'm getting ahead of the holidays. And here's some ideas I have. I wanna be a great partner. And like you said, it's top of mind, right? I'm like, [00:11:00] oh, they wanna be a partner.
I love that. Right? And so all of a sudden I'm thinking about, well, let's see. I have this display that I wanna make sure I, you know, has this and this. And I'm like, oh, that's a great, a great partnership. You know, I'm glad they reached out. And it's good to think about what could you offer some incentives?
To stores ahead of time to get those early pos, right, those purchase orders so that you can start knowing how to plan. I think that's the hardest thing is like, well, how much do I make? But you can get commitments pretty early in the summer and say, Hey, you know, let's decide and then put some purchase orders together, and then that way you can actually be working with your co-packer or buying, you know, the ingredients that you need well ahead of time to be ready.
Jordan Buckner: One thing that I've been really inspired by is if you're on LinkedIn and the CPG community , , I know you are, but for your listeners there's a lot of great merchandisers who are building these awesome displays for different brands. Mm-hmm. And while they have their own kind of company sets, right.
A lot of times these retailers are ordering sometimes. 50, a hundred cases of product [00:12:00] to build these displays. But even if you're just a small team there might be opportunities to say like, Hey, we are perfect for X, Y, and Z holiday, and we'll even come in and just be you and the founders and friends and like build a display for you to help with that.
Yes. With building that display, the retailer will actually. You buy dozens of cases extra. And those are pos coming in the door. And so by adding that little, like, we'll actually come into the store and help work with you and the team to do it. Cause we know you might be short on man hours or woman hours.
The. That that can make a
Sari Kimbell: big difference. Oh my gosh. Again, that's just being a great partner and realizing like I know we all love to like trash on all the stores right now and everything that's going on, but you know, the buyers are in a tough spot too. Like they're getting squeezed and you know, They just don't have as much time as they used to, the marketing folks, the buying folks.
So anything you can do to give them time back and make their lives easier. Also get your promotions in well [00:13:00] in advance, you know, as soon as you possibly can. Think through, you know, what are the right times? You know, are you a Thanksgiving holiday thing or are you a Christmas thing? Are you a, you know, new Year's resolution thing, but get your promos in early.
And then also can you get your demos scheduled in early? Yeah. Get on that schedule, because the last thing you want is like, again, October, where you're like, aha, I really wanna be in the store the week of Thanksgiving. And they're like, sorry, you know, Full, it's taken. Anything else to add about wholesale thoughts that you've seen?
Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think it's really understanding just like what you're committing to and if you wanna go all on that holiday or if not, because it can be a big it's a lot of time and planning there. I guess the last thing on that quickly is what about creating like holiday specific flavors for mm-hmm.
Retailer, like that can be a big investment. What happens if you don't sell
Sari Kimbell: them? Yeah, I mean, I have a couple clients who do have holiday flavors and so again, the sooner you can get them out to buyers potential, you know, Especially [00:14:00] like gift shop. And this isn't just like a Whole Foods or natural groceries, this is thinking about gift shops as well.
But you wanna like really leverage those relationships that hopefully you've spent time building. You know, it's the like, don't just show up in my email like in October, like have you been nurturing the relationship ahead of time? And that way when you're like, oh, we have this peppermint. Flavor now, or this, you know, apple spice or whatever it is, it's like, okay, sure, yeah, , I'll take a chance with that.
But the more you can get pre-commitments ahead of time, that way you don't go too all in. And then having a multichannel strategy, so, Can you, have other outlets so that if you don't sell as much as you thought in one area, can you run it on e-commerce or Amazon or something like that?
Totally makes sense. There's so much to think about and I just, you know, I have a Spice Coat packer that I refer people to a lot and he's, you know, we just had a conversation. He's like, yep. Remember [00:15:00] August I start filling up? Again, everything backs out. So you're like, oh, well I need all my containers, I need my ingredients, I need my labels, I need, and so this is definitely the time , to be working on that holiday plan.
So let's talk a little bit about e-commerce, because similar, there are some similar overlaps, so certainly around production and things like that. When it's wholesale, you're dealing with. Retail buyer and getting commitments ahead of time and what they want, whereas e-commerce, it's kind, you're directing the ship, it's all up to you for better or for worse.
Jordan Buckner: And I think the thing I see brands at the early stage teetering on is like, for Black Friday through holidays, like, how much , do I discount my product? Am I even like making money? Is it a loss leader to get new customers in the door? Like how should they even be thinking about like the strategy behind what I do for those events?
Sari Kimbell: Again, just like with the buyers don't show up in November on their email doorstep with [00:16:00] like, Hey, remember us? Like hopefully you've been nurturing, your email list ahead of time, and it's good to even ramp it up a little bit in like September and October, just reminding people who you are, what's special about you, not necessarily selling, like, not necessarily a lot of promotions.
You really want to be nurturing that relationship and sparking it back up. You want to remind them about all the cool things that you are and the products that you offer and why they should pay attention. When the holidays come.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think that's huge because every advertising avenue is incredibly expensive around the holidays because you're not even competing with other brands of your size, but all the major players.
And so as much as you can leverage your email list to sell, it'll drastically reduce those costs. Right? Imagine if, you know, some people are spending $25 to acquire a new customer around that time on Black Friday, and what if instead you gave. A $20 discount [00:17:00] to your existing customer on the email list, right?
You would've spent that money anyway to acquire a new customer, but now you're able to use that to discount to your current customers. And so really getting more than like, as you mentioned, building your email list early, so then you have to spend less on paid advertising than you might have otherwise.
Sari Kimbell: Yeah. That's so good. And I'm actually in August, so I'm a huge fan of Lead Ads. I don't know, are you familiar with Lead Ads? I am as much. Okay. So I love them so much and I, I've been using them personally and they've been working really well. And then I have some clients who I've trained. And so we're gonna be doing, that's our one of our calls in, in my group in August will be how to do lead ads.
And I have a. Brand who is getting leads at 31 cents qualified leads each. Now they're getting them on their list now, right? In the summer. And if, imagine if you keep, you know, 31 cents a lead, now you start nurturing them with those emails as you crescendo [00:18:00] up. Yes. The holidays. And like you said, now you've only spent 31 cents.
You can give bigger discounts or you don't have to give dis as mu, you know, you just keep more money cuz you're not trying to compete with everybody else.
Jordan Buckner: No, I love that. I think, as you mentioned as well, like building those relationships early and then putting those seed of ideas in their minds of like, Hey, this is a great giftable item.
Or if you're putting together those like special gift collections then people start to think like, oh, I, you know, I probably should start thinking about holiday gifts. I'm really bad at it, but this could be a great gift for my so-and-so. Before they start making plans and going out and finding other gifts.
Sari Kimbell: Yeah, it just kinda warms 'em up. And that way when, you know, you know how many emails you get around Black Friday, it's like, and I look at them more as like sport. Cuz that's, I'm just always curious. But I know you'll people, like, I hate all the emails I get, but if you've already warmed them up and they're like, kind of like you already, then they're more like, oh, it's okay.
I'm gonna delete all those other people who I'm just now hearing from. [00:19:00] Yes, we have all this emotion about our emails and it's like, I know and remember, I know people are like, Oh, I emailed them once. I'm like, yeah, okay. But they have a million other emails, so you know, don't assume people saw that one email.
Like be willing to email them more. And in the holiday bootcamp that I'm running in August, I'll have my amazing email gal Jane Hamill come and talk about. The right amount of emails to send and what to send and help people clarify that it is email is you gotta go get the email leads elsewhere, like on Google or Meta Facebook, whatever, but then you own them, then you're, they're your customer and you gotta do the work in email.
Jordan Buckner: I think a lot of the things that founders make a mistake of as well is once they acquire those customers, especially around those big acquisition periods of the holidays, a lot of them founders aren't doing a lot enough to nurture them in getting that second order right? So if something's finding your brand [00:20:00] for the first time, they're trying it out, they're unsure how it's gonna work, they're not gonna fall in love the very first time it usually takes.
Two, the four purchases to start building something as a routine in their lives. And so what are you doing to get them coming back a second and a third time so that they continue to purchase with you? And if you can focus on that, you know, increasing that three month, I always talk about three month lifetime value of a customer.
So getting them come back as much as possible during a three month period. Then they can start building that habit of using your brand throughout , their lives and maintain , that kind of purchase frequency throughout the year.
Sari Kimbell: That is so true. So important to keep the customers you have any other e-commerce tips?
Cause I do wanna talk about your gifting. You have your own e-commerce business. Go to that. Yeah. So, you know, so. I'm curious because we were talking about it earlier, like have you already planned out your holiday packages? Yeah.
Jordan Buckner: For Joyful Co. We have already planned out our holiday assortments. Those are set.
So unfortunately aren't taking anyone, so [00:21:00] nobody going I'm not taking any new ones right now for this year. And it's really to start getting ordering in to get everything set. We're building out our marketing now to really make sure we're hitting on , those key periods. Yeah.
And. So all that planning is happening now as well.
Sari Kimbell: In general, it's probably too late to get into somebody else's gift boxes. You never know, but I'd love to see brands collaborating together and working out partnerships. There's no reason why you can't create your own curated bundle with partnered products.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think there's a big missed opportunity in terms of creating giftable package collections, right? Like a lot of brands will just sell their same. Case of six of their products , or a single product and just, frankly, a lot of consumers aren't looking for that at the that time of the year, right?
Either they're looking for something nice for themselves or for family members or for friends, and so as much as you can do the gifting work for them, then [00:22:00] it's a great way of getting your product into more hands, as you mentioned. There's great partnerships that you can do with a a similar brand or a complimentary brand that you know, or founder friends and say, Hey, let's create this curate get box.
And then someone can take the lead. You put together a budget, how you wanna promote it, and really just start giving that out to your audiences, either in like a paid or in just through your own email list. So you're creating those curations from the beginning.
Sari Kimbell: And those, again, all those things take time because if you think about like I'm like a ninja project manager.
So it's one of those things, like, it comes so naturally to me, but I've realized like, oh, not everybody's brain thinks this way, so let's just back it out. So like, you wanna be live by, let's say, you know, November 1st. So you need photos ahead of time. You need all the marketing copy, you need, you know all the pricing and everything up on the website.
You need. Packaging well in advance, like photos, you know, you might need to get three, four weeks in advance and then like somebody's gotta [00:23:00] take the lead on it and like, these things just take a lot more time than we think they will. And what people usually do is like, either they have to say no to things cuz there's just no way, or they're then running around really, really stressed out and. It's not a good experience for anybody.
Jordan Buckner: No, it's so true. And I think two pieces of advice that I would give is one, as you mentioned, think about that timeline and actually put on your calendar, like block out a three hour block or four hour block or one hour block to say, Hey, plan for this event, and have kind of key follow ups throughout that time period is the first thing.
And I think the second is, I usually recommend for founders to like either like go all in to doing it and promoting it or don't worry about it this year. Like if you don't have have time, think about it because you're launching other things like don't have do it and just put 'em together like a bad offer because you're gonna spend more time creating something like bad with little impact and then just be frustrated by the results.
So either kind of plan and commit to go all in and doing something at a certain level or just. Worry about it the next year. [00:24:00] You don't have to do everything. There's a lot going on as a founder, and so you don't wanna overstress yourself with things like this.
Sari Kimbell: And the more you can do the planning, now you can decide ahead of time.
And I, and to go back to what we said at the very beginning, like what are your goals for the holidays and we always overestimate what we can do in a short amount of time. And I would say even like five months basically. It's a short amount of time or four months, whatever, till whatever your holidays are, and we always overestimate.
And so know that ahead of time, make decisions. I'm gonna do these three things and these are my priorities and I want to grow sales in this category by X amount. And. And then keep a list, right? I think everybody wants to do everything all the time, but keep a parking lot list. Have a note on your phone or something that you just keep that list of like maybe that's a next year thing, right?
It's okay if you miss the boat on this time, or it's a good idea, but it's just not in your plan. As CEOs, we have to constrain and we just can't do everything all at once. But put it on your [00:25:00] list. Then you can revisit it for next year, next summer when I find a new holiday sweater. Exactly. Start reminding you that it's time to plan for the holidays in July.
Right. And think back to what you wish you would've done last year. Right. Or what you wish you could have done better or what you didn't like didn't work completely. I think those are some really great holiday tips. Anything else you've thought of that you wanna make sure we add?
Jordan Buckner: No, I think that's pretty much it.
And I think after listening to this episode, give yourself a couple hours to plan out what your ideal holiday they will look like, where you wanna focus and you don't wanna focus as equally important as you just said, to know what you wanna say no to and start working on that plan today.
Sari Kimbell: And I'm also on a mission.
I mean, I want you to grow your sales, but I'm on a mission for you to actually. This sounds crazy, Jordan, but enjoy your holidays. Like, oh yeah, what if you actually could enjoy Thanksgiving and you were, all, your emails were done and all, everything was worked out ahead of time and you were just like, yeah, it's all on automatic, it's [00:26:00] fine.
I'm not getting, you know, pulled away by my phone. What if you actually enjoyed your own holiday season and you were making money?
Jordan Buckner: Mind blowing, Sari like that's something that's so foreign to founders.
Sari Kimbell: It's possible, but it starts now. Yes. Yes. So you can go get the checklist, we'll put the link in the show notes.
And for the holiday bootcamp, there's information on that page. And we are doing something special for Foodbevy members, which you gotta be in the Slack channel to go learn about it. Be sure to check that out because if you have trouble forcing yourself to make that time, then like use strategic accountability and go sign up for the bootcamp.
And then, You'll make the time and I will force you.
Jordan Buckner: You're great at doing
Sari Kimbell: that. It's such a great opportunity to hook your future self up. Hook your November self up and give her a break. Perfect. I love that. Well, thanks for joining me. It was fun little chat, and I think it'll be really helpful. Well, I'll put on my Santa hat one last time.
There we [00:27:00] go. I know. Holiday season.
Jordan Buckner: I'll need to get one for the next one in my ugly holiday sweater.
Sari Kimbell: All right. We're gonna see who can have the ugliest sweater next year. Let's do it. Love it. Thanks Jordan. Appreciate your time. Thanks. That was awesome. I had so much fun talking shop with him. I hope you enjoyed it.
I hope you got some new ideas out of it, things you wanna start doing right now. Now is the time and spots are limited, but come join me in the holiday bootcamp because this is work that you have to. To do, but come do it in a group setting. Come do it where I'm giving you tools and you're not just sitting down going, now what do I do?
They told me stuff and I don't remember. And I always make things fun. I have some great guests coming and we're just gonna have a good time and we are going to get work done and then you're gonna feel so good going into it, knowing. I got a plan and now I just have to go execute it [00:28:00] this fall. Boom. All right.
Go to foodbizsuccess.com/holiday to get all the details. Until next time, have an amazing week.