Small retailers looking to gain an edge this holiday season can follow these three tips from American Express OPEN Forum:

Host Events

An owner of a home decor store plans to host several events between Thanksgiving and Christmas to help increase holiday sales. She plans to participate for the third year in American Express’ Small Business Saturday, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving; host a “ladies’ night” shopping event with wine and appetizers the first Thursday of December; and throw a “Thank God It’s Over” party the Sunday before Christmas.

The events, she says, are a way to create a festive mood and make her store into a holiday destination for people looking for an all-out holiday shopping experience.

Beyond the events, she also plans to use the store’s Facebook page to highlight unique products the store sells that shoppers won’t be able to find at major retailers. She also plans to host contests on Facebook, where winners receive prizes that encourage them to come to the store.

Sell Products That Make Great Gifts

A U.S. master franchisee of a Germany-based oil, vinegar and spirits retailer, says his store puts together sampler gift sets around the holidays that sell for $20 to $60—a steal compared to the $100 or $200-plus bottles that shoppers might buy for themselves. Shoppers at the store can taste all the oils and vinegars and select between an array of decorative gift bottles, and write a personalized message to the gift recipient using paint pens. “It gives them the feeling that they’re getting a really unique gift that comes from the heart,” he says, adding, “one of the keys for us has been creating a more-exclusive product line.”

The store also gives its customers holiday recipes and explains how the company hand-picks the products it sells in the stores.

Every year, the store chooses a theme to promote around the holidays. This year, it’s “the flavor of health and happiness,” which encourages shoppers to teach their loved ones the benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet so they can live a longer, healthier life.

Offer Rewards To Loyal Customers

A company that hosts conferences and provides other resources for independent retailers, says creating loyalty programs can be an effective tool for generating business around the holidays. A store might create a VIP program that provides special events for members or gives them an extra gift, such as an ornament, or a two-for-one discount when they shop on certain days. It might host an employee appreciation night and ask employees to bring two or three of their friends.

The goal, she says, is to make customers feel valued—something many big retailers aren’t very good at. “I think retailers are starting to accept the reality that consumers want incentives,” she adds. “They want to feel like they’re getting something special when they shop with you.”