Since 2005, Johanna Bialkin has owned and run Aldea Home & Baby, a home furnishings and children’s toys and apparel store, located in San Francisco’s Mission District and Los Angeles’s Culver City. She shared with us her finely-tuned strategy for creating a smooth and successful holiday shopping season, and provided insight on how small businesses owners can thrive by supporting each other.
Having done this for 12 years, I would say the earlier you can start on the holiday season, the better. In June, I start preparing for the holidays by doing analysis on…
The planning is all done by the end of August. We always need more workers during the holidays, so one objective is obviously hiring more people to work at the store. I usually do a theme for the inventory I’ll be curating, which entails what I’m envisioning for the holiday. It’s a combination of what’s trending and my own feeling about the year and where we are. We do research on what colors are out there. I also do research on products, and what products are being featured the most for the year.
I’ve leveraged my business so that we’re busy all year long. We do half baby registry and half gifts. During the holidays we sell more gifts and less furniture, however, with furniture you can make more money. So I would say we’re probably making bigger days closer to the holidays, but January and February are the biggest registry months. Because of the buying cycle, when people are buying furniture they’re not usually buying gifts, and when they’re buying gifts they’re not usually buying furniture.
Sell the things you stand behind. It’s really important to have one cohesive vision in terms of what products you sell, and that people understand your vision. For me, one of the most important things is to not only sell what you think everybody would like, but specifically what your consumer would like. We’ve studied our consumer; we know our consumer. I’m buying for them but also for myself. I would never sell anything that I wouldn’t have in my home. Also, I never sell something that people can get very easily online. Businesses should sell things that are hard to find and unique.
I also always recommend doing promotions with others. Making sure you and your fellow store owners support each other is very important. Ask everybody questions and learn from everyone. You should always be learning and not believe that you know best.
“Small businesses have to stick together and support each other and make it interesting for people to buy things.”
No. I don’t buy anything on Amazon ever. If my vendor tells me they’re selling on Amazon, I won’t buy from them. I recommend that others do the same. Small businesses have to stick together and support each other and make it interesting for people to buy things.
You have to support your local businesses — and not just local businesses where you live, but local businesses everywhere. We buy stuff from Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and Austin. That way you have stuff that people want to buy that’s also unique, interesting, and different from your competitors.
All of our categories sell well, but one of our biggest categories during the holidays is toys. Kids toys sell really well, along with jewelry and barware. Paper products and books have also been very strong in the last couple years.
I work five to seven days a week. But this year, I’ve taken time to go away, do things for myself, and feed my own interest, which has only been good for my business. I’ve been able to bring more back to it. You have to work at your business all the time, but it’s also good to bring different and varied experiences back to it.