How Do You Handle Curveballs?

“How do I plan my holiday season with all this uncertainty?”

This is what retailers are asking me right now. How about you?

The answer is: There will always be uncertainty. Really. It might seem like this is a more uncertain time than usual – but I’m telling you: Nothing is EVER certain.

And this is why it is SO IMPORTANT to have a PLAN and a STRATEGY for your business.

This is true all year – but especially so during the fourth quarter.

Whether it’s a staff member quitting unexpectedly, an order you were counting on getting delayed or cancelled – or a pandemic… Curveballs WILL come your way!

I remember one year, it was December 23 and I was chatting with Helen about how her store’s holiday season had gone so far. She answered with a growl. A growl! 

I said “uh-oh, what does that mean?”

“You know Cathy” she replied, “It was going really well at first. But then my main employee had to take a month off unexpectedly, and everything went off the rails! I spent the second half of the season dealing with the aftermath, and I didn’t get to do ANY of the things that I had planned!”


I wish I could say that this was the first time I’ve heard this story from a retailer. But unfortunately, it’s a really common problem. 

The holiday season is already a really intense time, considering it represents a huge portion of the yearly sales for many stores. 

So when something hits you out of left field, you react! The problem with reacting instead of responding, is that you give up control

And then you spend all of your time trying to fix it, which takes you away from doing the things that will actually have a big impact on your holiday sales. 

You miss the OPPORTUNITY that lies within every obstacle.

Instead – what if we leaned into the curveball? What if we ask ourselves what caused it in the first place? Or how we could have anticipated it?

This year one of my main goals was to set up my calendar with time blocks. I know it’s how I can be more effective and efficient with my time. And I have started several times, and each time a curveball pops up that makes me have to scratch it and start over again.

I’ve been doing this for FIVE months now, and chatting with my coach one day I shared how I feel like such a failure, because five months in I still don’t have this goal figured out!

My coach gently reminded me (and THIS is why you need a coach if you don’t have one!):
Cathy, you’re not failing. You’re learning.

Every one of those curveballs that caused me to redo my calendar, was a learning opportunity. They’re showing me what I don’t want, so I can set up the process and structure needed so they don’t happen anymore!

Those processes and structures are what makes up your plan. And this is what we help retailers do in our RETAILMavens Coaching program.

The first step? Clarifying where you are already thriving, and where you have room for improvement. Take our free Retail Success Quiz to get clarity on what you need!

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