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Shoppers make their way through the Eaton Centre in Toronto December 22, 2011.Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Not ready for mobile? Discounting early? Short-staffed? Weak website? These are among errors you don't want to commit

It's that time of year again, when retailers are gearing up for the crucial holiday spending season.

Canadians plan to up their spending this year, according to a recent Bank of Montreal holiday outlook survey. Retailers who want to cash in might pay heed to some of the advice already starting to hit the virtual airwaves.

Noting that for many small business owners, November and December can represent 20 to 40 per cent of annual sales, American Express Open Forum offers up 10 of the most common mistakes that retailers make during this season.

Among them are failing to have a marketing plan in place. It's not enough to figure the season will inspire them; you need to have a plan in place to entice customers to your establishment, the piece advises.

As well, you'd better have a strong Web presence. And be sure you're mobile-ready, the Amex piece says, echoed by another holiday-retailing piece on Inc. A recent survey found that 44 per cent of online shoppers will make purchases for the holidays through tablets.

Other mistakes to avoid? Forgetting about the rest of the year. Don't put all your eggs in the holiday basket, and use the season, for instance to develop your client list, to help push business throughout the year.

As well, being short-staffed is a no-no, as is trying to compete directly on price with big-box stores. Instead,the pieces advise, emphasize shopping locally, and complement your social media efforts with direct mail.

For another Inc. take on winning the holiday-season shopping wars, click here.

Worries about U.S. business conditions reach record high: NFIB

Small businesses in the United States were slightly more optimistic in October – but worries about future business conditions reached a record high, finds the latest small business optimism index from the U.S. National Federation of Independent Business.

Its index rose a marginal 0.3 in October to 93.1. The survey, conducted before the U.S. presidential election, also found that the proportion of business owners feeling uncertain about whether business conditions would improve or get worse in six months reached a record 23 per cent.

"While four of 10 survey components rose, the index still remains in solidly pessimistic – and recessionary territory," said NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg in the release.

Competitive edge: Study your competitors

If you're going to start a business, you better learn about who has gone before you if you want any kind of edge on your competitors, advises this Wall Street Journal piece. So how are you supposed to figure out what kind of sales they're bringing in, who supplies them and what they pay staff? The Journal article offers some sleuthing suggestions.


Bell offers $25,000 small business prizes

If you're a small business in Ontario or Quebec, you may want to pay attention to Bell's "salute to small business" contest, offering the chance to win one of two $25,000 prizes in services, conisting of an online advertising and production package or a Web hosting and design custom solution; there are also two $5,000 gift certificates to The Source up for grabs. Entering means simply nominating a business; winners will be selected through a random draw on Nov. 30. For more information, click here.

SociaLight conference

Billing itself Canada's ultimate entrepreneurship and leadership event, the SociaLight conference takes place in Toronto on Nov. 17. For more information, click here.

Small Business Summit Toronto

The countdown's on to Nov. 22: That's the day of The Globe and Mail's Small Business Summit. The day-long event will be packed with goodies for entrepreneurs. For more information, click here.


Hockey memorabilia seller suffers sales shutout from NHL lockout

This week's Challenge: With 95 per cent of business hockey-related, AJ Sports World needs to figure out how to stay afloat while the the season is frozen. To take a peek inside the business, check out this photo gallery.


He shoots, he scores with hockey memorabilia

PropertyGuys co-founder Ken Leblanc has amassed a collection of more than 15,000 pieces, worth $75,000, much of it focused on his favourite team – Go, Leafs, go – and players, reported this Splurge, published last December.

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