'Tis the season for holiday advertising: Gearing up for a crucial sales bump

The holiday season is a time of giving and cheer, but it's also a time for retailers and other small businesses to capitalize on eager consumers' shopping habits and make a final push for profits in the calendar year.

Holiday shopping used to be a sure thing for ventures of all sizes, but in today's uncertain economy, retail sales and service purchases are less abundant. Still, there are customers to be had and profits to be made if small businesses have the right holiday advertising plans in place and they prepare for the bump in sales.

According to Inc. magazine, holiday sales are expected to hit $465.6 billion this year, a growth of 2.8 percent over 2010. However, from 2009 to 2010, holiday sales rose 5.2 percent. Despite the projected slow-down in revenue growth, the key is to remember that the figure is still an increase year over year, no matter how modest.

Small businesses must leverage creative and consistent advertising efforts in order to stay on the forefront of consumers' minds this holiday season, whether that's through direct mailings, radio and television advertisements, mobile marketing or local SEO keyword strategies. Today's consumers, while spending slightly more money than in previous years, are more focused in their shopping approaches.

"Something we're hearing a lot is called mission shopping, so she has a game plan, she has her holiday list, she knows who she's shopping for and she's going to target those retailers with specific needs and specific items in mind," Alison Levy, a retail strategist at Kurt Salmon, told Inc. reporter Allison Fass. "What that means for the retailer is that they have to be more inventive than ever in terms of giving her a reason to shop them versus the competitors and really doing something compelling."

Small businesses in communities across the country are hoping that this year's holiday sales will live up to the hype and then some. One catalyst to spur shopping this time of year, geared especially to Main Street entrepreneurs, is Small Business Saturday. This is the second annual event that encourages consumers to patronize local merchants and thus support their communities.

WLKY reports that merchants in the Louisville area are just some of the many nationwide gearing up for the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. These business owners told the news source that they can offer a more personalized and less chaotic shopping experience than big-box stores this holiday season.