Christmas comes a little early every year for the online retailer — June or July to be exact. If you’re just starting to prepare now for this year’s holiday selling season, you’re none too early. Most people think the holiday buying craze starts the day after Thanksgiving, but the truth is it starts in September and tops out in November. So now is the time to get ready for the busiest selling season of the year. Enhancing Your Product Line Start thinking about your product sourcing. Your wholesalers should be sending you product sheets and catalog inserts with new products and prices. Because suppliers make their money anticipating trends, they’re a good place to see what’s new in your market and find complementary products to accentuate your existing line. Before you decide to add an item to your line-up, do your homework. Look at other stores and auctions to see what kind of demand is there. See how much competition you have in that market and if there’s enough room for you to make a good profit. Suggests Matt Hedges, customer service manager of product-sourcing leader http://WorldwideBrands.com, “This is a good time to test the waters with new products you might want to carry throughout the fall and holiday season.” Advance Planning: the Key to Happy Customers Holiday shoppers’ number one concern is that their gift purchases reach their loved ones by Christmas. Online sales drop drastically the week before Christmas because buyers are afraid their orders won’t arrive on time. That’s why back orders are a seller’s worst nightmare. And that’s why you, the online retailer, need to take steps now to ensure that you’re not running short this holiday season: • Order a few of your best-selling products and hold them in case your drop-shipper gets backed up. If your supplier can’t deliver something to your customer, you’ll have it on hand and be able to get it to them on time. • “Stay on top of your wholesalers at this time of year,” advises Hedges. Touch base with your suppliers every few weeks. Keep up-to-date on their stock levels for your best-selling items. • If all else fails and your drop-shipper drops the ball, find another online store that offers overnight shipping or second day air. Between retail pricing and shipping costs, you’ll most likely take a loss — but you’ll differentiate your business from other e-stores out there that get backed up and can’t deliver. Being ready for the holidays helps you to give your customers what they want and build your reputation through positive word-of-mouth. You’ll gain loyal customers who’ll bring you repeat business throughout the rest of the year.