Time to Start 2020 Holiday Planning for your CPG Brand

By Alli Ball
Aug. 7, 2020

Guest blog by Allison Ball, a former grocery buyer turned wholesale consultant. Alli helps emerging brands through Retail Ready®, her online course on wholesale, and her podcast, Food Biz Wiz®.

Despite the ups and downs of 2020, one thing is for certain: the fourth quarter is quickly approaching and now is the time to ensure that you’re setting up your CPG brand for holiday success.

Whether you have your marketing & sales plan dialed in, or you’re just starting to think about seasonal product offerings, follow my four steps to preparing for the fourth quarter and you’ll be thanking yourself come Thanksgiving!

The Four Steps are:

  1. Decide
  2. Pitch
  3. Schedule
  4. Nurture

Now let’s look at each one in detail so you are ready to start 2020 holiday planning for your CPG brand.

Step One: Decide.

There’s no time to waste here, and you’ve got to make some quick decisions and move along. Here you want to make decisions around what seasonal offerings you’ll sell (including sizing, pricing, quantity, etc.) and which channel you’ll sell them through (direct-to-consumer, online, brick & mortar).

Will you bundle your products and sell them on your website? Great - time for step #2.

Will you create a seasonal offering to sell through your top 10 brick & mortar wholesale accounts? Fantastic. Keep moving forward!

Will you work with a partner that is well-aligned and your products would be mutually-beneficial if sold together? Awesome.

Have you determined that your product would be perfect for corporate gift-giving and is the ideal product for 2020 holidays? Awesome. Now let’s get to it!

Step Two: Pitch.

You’ve figured out your product assortment and your bundles, and NOW you’re ready to pitch to two key groups of people: wholesale buyers - both in brick & mortar and online - and all of those gift guides that you see your fellow entrepreneurs land in each year. You’ll notice that I didn’t mention your direct-to-consumer channels here, as you obviously don’t need to “pitch” to yourself when you add something to your own website.

When I was a Buyer, I didn’t bring in any products that were specifically holiday-related after October 1st. Come October, Buyers are focused on candy canes and cranberry sauce, and typically don’t have the capacity to bring in products that are outside of seasonal categories. This means you’ve got to pitch NOW in order to land on-shelf in 2020.

For a similar reason, it’s also time to pitch to press & media to gear up for 2020 holiday planning for your CPG brand. Printed publications are already putting together their holiday guides, and online publications are ramping up. Make a list of the best holiday round ups that you saw last year (a quick google search can also bring up leads for you) - and craft your pitch to them as soon as you can.


Step Three: Schedule.

Once you figure out what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, and how you’ll connect with them, you want to write out your schedule for the rest of 2020. Typically the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, through December, and leading into early 2020 are jam-packed, so by blocking out your calendar now, you’ll be more likely to navigate the fourth quarter with ease.

What do you schedule? Well, it’s up to you and what your business needs to have in place to succeed this year from a sales, marketing, and production point of view.

Scheduling needs to consider:

  • Operations-related:
    • blocking out your calendar for promotions leading up to Black Friday
    • outlining dates for a giveaway that you’re hoping to do with another brand
    • scheduling the photo shoots that are required for launching your seasonal products online
    • figuring out when you’ll write & schedule your emails through the end of the year

  • Production-related:
    • schedule additional time with your Co packer, or commercial kitchen
    • take into consideration longer lead times for ingredients and packaging
    • making sure you know the order deadlines for getting the supplies that you need
    • additional staffing needs through the holiday rush - now’s the time to schedule it out!

The key here is realizing that there are so many moving parts to the fourth quarter, and that you can set yourself up for success by scheduling in advance, on your OWN timeline, and with enough space in your schedule so that you aren’t rushing to get it done. More careful planning will lead to better results.

Step Four: Nurture.

I see most CPG brands forget about this important step. Ask yourself, “how can I warm up my audience starting NOW so they’ll be prepared to buy from me this holiday season?” This can be as straightforward as emailing your audience twice per month through the rest of the year, or being more active on social media, or running paid campaigns starting now. Don’t wait until the week of Black Friday to show up for your audience.

You also want to nurture your wholesale relationships so that they know exactly when you’ll be ready to deliver your first holiday order, so that they think of you when they’re planning their holiday displays, and so that they don’t change their mind on stocking your Q4 products. If you don’t have a seasonal product - it’s even more important to continue to nurture those accounts so that they don’t forget about you over the fourth quarter - or even worse - discontinue you, even temporarily.

It is absolutely time to start 2020 holiday planning for your CPG brand. Follow my four steps: Decide, Pitch, Schedule & Nurture, and you’ll be on your way to successfully executing a smooth fourth quarter. The holidays are stressful enough as it is, so don’t miss your opportunity to make things a bit more streamlined for your CPG brand this holiday season!


Hey, I’m Alli - thanks for reading today. If you’d like to keep in touch, find me weekly on my Food Biz Wiz® podcast, which speaks directly to the challenges of growing your packaged food business, jump on the waitlist for Retail Ready® to work ON your business during these next few months, or send me a DM and introduce yourself on Instagram. It’s an honor for me to help brands with your wholesale strategy, based on my decade of grocery buying experience, and I’m here to support you during this period. Please keep in touch!