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5 Moves Small Retailers Must Make to Compete With Big Box Stores Local stores have more than one slingshot to use in their never-ending David vs. Goliath competition with national chains.

By David Goldin Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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For retailers and small and medium sized business (SMB) owners, the winter holiday months are the last lap in a long race to finish out the year on a high note. Leading up to the holiday rush, independent retailers and SMBs must prepare to take advantage of the busiest time of the year and keep pace with their larger big-box competitors.

While there are countless initiatives to ensure success as the temperature drops and consumer traffic rises, some are more effective than others. With sales numbers expected to eclipse figures from recent years, every independent retail shop and SMB should be preparing for the home stretch of 2014.

Here are some effective tools that retail business can leverage during this year's winter holiday season:

1. Optimize your online presence

For years, shoppers have been steadily surfing the Internet for their winter holiday shopping needs, and according to NDP, 2014 will be no different. This year, nearly 60 percent of consumers plan on doing some form of online holiday shopping. How can SMBs prepare? First, be sure your company website is optimized for online transactions. Second, make your products available on third party websites like Amazon.

Related: How to Compete with the Big Chains? Think Locally

2. Convert more sales with current customers

It's cheaper and more profitable to get sales conversions from current or existing customers, as opposed to acquiring new customers. Finding new customers always involves more money and time, two things that you can't afford to lose during the holiday season. With that in mind, consider offering personal promotions to customers who frequent your store. This will motivate your existing customers to stay loyal, and through word of mouth, newer customers will be interested in purchasing your products and services more often.

3. Social media

If you're tired of the same old social media speech, we feel your pain. However, social media remains an essential tool for small businesses, especially during the holidays. Social media levels the playing field for all businesses, regardless of size. You should be using it to your advantage while you still can. Leverage your social pages and channels to push out promotions such as flash sales, contests and giveaways. These promotions allow for interactions and conversations with all customers, old and new. It will also help to separate your social media presence from your competitors.

4. It's a marathon, not a sprint

Yes, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are arguably the three biggest shopping days of the year, but don't overlook the rest of the winter holiday season between Halloween and Christmas. There are many sales to be made and customers to gain even well after Thanksgiving weekend.

Related: 10 Commandments of Retail Sales

5. Gift cards

Many people believe the winter holiday shopping season ends on Christmas Eve. Smart business owners know otherwise since more people than ever before are receiving gift cards, cash, or checks for their winter holiday gifts. Accepting and offering gift cards, in addition to preparing for post-Christmas sales, can give you a leg up on the competition and stretch out the holiday season even further.

We all saw firsthand last year why the winter holiday season is so important to independent retailers and SMB owners. With the harsh weather leading to an extremely slow first quarter, businesses were forced to play catch-up for the remainder of the year. A successful winter holiday season can provide momentum for a solid first quarter, in addition to offering some breathing room should the weather once again create another slow sales cycle.

To win the mad race that is the winter holiday season, be well-prepared, creative and willing to go the extra mile.

Related: Gift Cards Are an Untapped Opportunity for Local Businesses

David Goldin

President & CEO of AmeriMerchant

David Goldin is the president and CEO of AmeriMerchant. David's previous experience includes co-founding an Internet development company and building it from four to 50 people that was eventually sold to a multi-billion dollar publicly traded telecommunications company. David is also a founding member and president of the North American Merchant Advance Association (NAMAA), a 501c trade association for the merchant cash advance industry.

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