Have a Merry after-Christmas

Anyone who attends trade shows and industry events has heard or said the phrase, "have a good show." We tell each other to make lots of contacts and initiate deals, to take a lot of notes and bring back actionable information to grow future business.

But as important as a good show is, the after-show is far more important: following up on leads and finalizing those deals.

I'm reminded of this as the holiday selling season draws to a close, because this year it's the after-season that will make or break the year for retailers.

Holiday shopping has been forever changed—by the recession, by technology and by a younger generation. Consumers start earlier, plan better and extend the holiday much longer.

They have the tools to compare prices and check inventory. They read reviews and crowdsource gift ideas in ways that make retailers' hot lists and toy books seem obsolete. Even the Neiman Marcus holiday catalog seemed to fade into the background this year, upstaged by Amazon's one-hour delivery and Instagram stars' gift guides.

And the weeks after Christmas will matter more than ever. Shoppers are expected to receive gift cards in record numbers, and they will be ready to redeem them for goods and services. The incentives dangled in front of shoppers as promotions have limited windows for redemption (unless it's a Macy's $10 gift card), and those savvy self-gifters have done their research and know exactly when the best sales are for targeted items.

Shoppers are even still waiting to buy holiday gifts until after Christmas.

So while the season is soon officially over, it will be the after-show that counts as retailers close out their books. Have a Merry Christmas to be sure, but here's hoping for an even merrier after-Christmas. -Laura