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Outlook of Women Small Business Owners American Express 2016 Holiday Growth Pulse

Women Business Owner Highlights. Noteworthy women business owner highlights are as follows:

  • 100% feel confident that they can access the funding they need to grow their business during the holidays
  • 87% feel this year’s holiday sales will be the same or stronger than last year (vs. 90% of men and 88% overall)
  • Seventy-seven percent plan to grow their businesses (vs. 72% of men and 74% of businesses overall)
  • The biggest challenge they face as they prepare for growth is acquiring new customers (22%)
  • Over two-thirds (68%) will give a holiday party for staff (vs. 70% of men)
  • They will spend an average of $2,160 on their holiday party vs. $3,650 spent by men
  • 48% feel they need to be more aggressive in sales and promotions to stand out in the holiday season (vs. 44% of men)
  • 47% expect their business to be making gains in the next quarter , 37% say maintaining the status quo and 9% say expanding in leaps and bounds
  • They plan to spend an average of $3,300 on gifts for clients and customers (vs. an average of $10,400 that men plan to spend)
  • 44% say employee productivity will be a greater concern at their company during the holidays
  • They measure success for the holiday season by adding new customers and reaching a certain sales goal (each 45%); men measure success by adding new customers (46%)
  • 36% think their company’s potential for growth in 2017 is contingent on a successful 2016 holiday season
  • 14% plan to hire additional staff for the holiday season (vs. 18% of men)
  • The holiday season is typically responsible for 21% of their company’s yearly sales (vs. 20% for men)


Holiday Outlook

More than three quarters (77%) of women business owners identify growth as their top priority. As they consider expansion, more than half of women business owners (56%) expect their business to grow over the next quarter – with more than four in ten saying their company will be ‘making gains’ (47%) and more than one in ten who say ‘expanding in leaps and bounds’ (9%). The biggest challenge they face as they prepare for growth is acquiring new customers (22%).

More than one third (36%) say their company’s potential for growth in 2017 is contingent on a successful 2016 holiday season. The holiday season is typically responsible for 21% of their company’s yearly sales. Women business owners will measure success for the holiday season by adding new customers and reaching a certain sales goal (each 45%); men measure success by adding new customers (46%).

Despite their positive outlook and focus on growth, there are a wide array of causes for concern during the holiday season. The biggest worry for women business owners around the holidays is the slowing economy (29%) but employee productivity and data security are also expected to have an impact:

Employee productivity (44%) and data security (38%) will be greater concerns during the holidays than during any other time of the year for women business owners.

Given the importance of the holiday season, both men and women are putting a great deal of effort into making sure it is successful. Forty-eight percent of women business owners think they will need to be more aggressive in sales and promotions in order to stand out (vs. 44% of men). As a way to raise their company’s profile 65% of women business owners will utilize social media this holiday season; the greatest number are using Facebook (56%).

More than one in ten women business owners (14%) plan to hire additional staff for the holidays, compared to 18% of men with hiring plans. Most (65%) plan to pay their holiday staff the same amount as last year while most men (50%) plan to pay more.

Nearly three in ten women business owners (27%, vs. 32% of men) say their company will be offering holiday discounts this year. Among those offering holiday discounts:

  • 66% will start offering holiday discounts the same time as last year
  • 34% will start offering holiday discounts earlier

Holiday Plans for Clients and Employees

As women business owners anticipate successful holiday season, they will thank current customers with gifts and reward employees with holiday parties and bonuses. More than seven in ten (71%) women business owners will spend money on holiday gifts for clients or customers this year. On average they will spend a total of $3,300; vs. $10,400 that men will spend.

In terms of women business owners’ plans for staff this holiday season, over two-thirds (68%) plan to host a holiday party or get together. For those hosting a holiday party, the average amount they expect to spend is $2,160, compared to $3,650 to be spent by men.

Lastly, more than three-quarters of women business owners will be giving employees bonuses this year (80%). When it comes to the type of bonus they will receive, 58% of women business owners (vs. 50% of men) indicate that their employees can expect something equivalent to “a small stocking stuffer” (less than 5% of annual salary), 18% (vs. 26% of men) expect to give a gift “too large to fit in the stocking” (5 to 15% of salary) and only 3% will give staff the “gift of their dreams” (more than 15% of their salary). However, 20% say their employees should expect “a lump of coal” (no bonus at all).

Survey Methodology

The American Express Holiday Growth Pulse is based on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. small business owners/managers, defined for the purposes of this survey as companies with fewer than 100 employees and annual revenues of $250,000 or greater, and 502 middle market companies, defined for the purposes of this survey as companies ranging in size from $10 million to $1 billion in annual revenues. The anonymous survey was conducted online among financial decision makers, owners and managers October 4-16, 2016. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.6% at the 95% level of confidence for the total combined sample of 1502, a margin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95% level of confidence for the small business sample of 1000 and a margin of error of +/- 4.4% at the 95% level of confidence for the sample of 500 middle market companies.

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