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For small businesses, it could be a bumper Christmas – but deep inside there’s fear

By November 11, 2019No Comments

(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)

If you want to know the kind of excruciating torment small businesses are prepared to endure just to succeed, look no further than the Chipmunks Christmas album. Apparently 37% of us would actually listen to the Chipmunks Christmas album, on repeat, if it would guarantee a 50% increase in our holiday sales.

That’s according to a recently released survey of more than 4,000 e-commerce managers and business owners by shipping firm DHL. Now, to be fair, the survey also found that 17% of us would volunteer as Santa at the mall, 27% of us would even forgo all our holiday gifts and 19% say they would overeat and gain 10lb in return for a profitable year. But the Chipmunks Christmas Album? On repeat? Really?

Yes, really – and I’m not surprised. This survey clearly demonstrates the depths that many people I know would go to just to turn a profit. The good news is that most business owners probably won’t have to go to such lengths this year.

This holiday season, which for some can account for more than half of their annual profits, looks like it’s going to be pretty good. Although a large majority (72%) of those surveyed by DHL expect global issues like tariffs and Brexit to have an impact, an almost equal number (70%) say that they anticipate an increase in their e-commerce sales this year compared to last.

“These findings suggest that despite global trade concerns, businesses are optimistic about the holiday season and it will remain the most profitable e-commerce shopping period of the year,” the company said in a statement. “The holidays present undeniable opportunities for US e-commerce businesses.”

But these findings also suggest something else to me, something a little darker: desperation.

Business owners are glass-is-half-full people, so one would expect many to be optimistic about the upcoming holiday period. But underlying all of that is a fear. The fear of not being able to meet demand due to inadequate staffing, poor inventory planning or bad cash forecasting. More so are the fears created by things that are out of our control: a trade war or a stock market decline or just the general economy faltering, which causes customers pull back on their planned purchases. If that happens, many small business owners will be desperate to make ends meet. So desperate that they would even consider listening to the Chipmunks Christmas album. On repeat.

The takeaway is that no matter how many studies, surveys, reports and polls you read about small business optimism and confidence always keep in mind that deep down inside there’s always fear. We’re never as optimistic as we say. We’re never as secure as we may seem. We’re always just one Chipmunks song away from the brink.

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