Small retailers, get ready. Forecasters say holiday sales will drop for the second year in a row. The shock of last fall’s financial crisis may have dissipated, but the consequences remain: unemployment at its highest point since 1983, foreclosures epidemic, spendthrift consumers trying to pay down debt and rebuild their personal savings. In this environment, small retailers will compete with national chains to capture a shrinking share of consumer dollars in the quarter that counts the most.
We need your help to tell this story. We want to find a handful of independent retailers across the U.S. to track through the 2009 holiday sales season. We’ll have data and reports from big industry groups and after-the-fact analysis from economists. But I think the best way we can cover this story, in real time, is to get dispatches directly from your shop floor.
How do sales compare to last year and the year before? Are you stocking up, or keeping inventory lean until demand is clearer? Are you hiring seasonal workers? Are you discounting early to bring in customers? What strategies or promotions are working? Which ones are falling flat? What are you doing to differentiate yourself from discount competitors?
We tried this last year with good results (here, here, here, and here). If you want to share your company’s story with BusinessWeek readers this year, let us know. We’ll check in with you by email or phone, maybe once a week over the next 10 weeks. If you’re on Twitter, we’ll keep up with you that way too. We need you to be straightforward about what you’re seeing — that includes financial details like what your sales are and what your margins are like, and how those figures compare to previous years. We also want you to share innovations with our readers, who are hungry to learn what works in this new retail landscape.