From hiring extra staff during peak times to anticipating the latest bestsellers, here are some tips for capitalizing on the most lucrative time of the year.
The Christmas shopping season is an important event in the calendar of any small retailer. Though customers will be well motivated to spend and sales are sure to rise, your preparations will determine by just how much.
Here’s a checklist of things to consider so you can look forward to those tills jingling out their cheerful message of a prosperous New Year.
Develop an evidence-based strategy
One thing you can guarantee in the run-up to Christmas is a sharp rise in main-street sales compared to the rest of the year.
But you need to consult your historic records (and canvass staff opinions) about which products sell best, in what volumes, and what happens to your supply chain as the holiday season approaches. After all, this is no time to be faced with orders you can’t deliver.
Likewise, with your marketing, you’ll need to review last year’s promotions and decide what worked well, what needs modification, what should be thrown out.
And don’t forget to check what your rivals did well; there’s no shame in borrowing elements of what succeeded (so long as you don’t infringe their intellectual property).
You also need to be well informed about any notable trends in your sector. Gauge what products might sell well this year by checking out magazines covering your sector, national media, as well as the hit TV shows or films of the moment – not just for ideas around branded goods but even fashions triggered by a hit show or cult production.
Organize your marketing calendar
To maximize your opportunities, your business will need to embrace Christmas right across your marketing channels. Establish your company as one that ‘keeps Christmas well’ – a grudging acknowledgment of the season risks the development of a ‘Scrooge’ reputation.
Discount vouchers, special deals, customer previews, giveaways, free food and drink and staff in festive attire will have the crowds singing your praises and emptying your shelves. This is also a good time to engage social media users in ways appropriate to both the season and your brand identity.
And last but certainly not least, ring-fence a festive marketing budget to avoid any nasty surprises when the invoices turn up in January.
Organize your business and your people
Christmas is the most lucrative time of year for retailers but it places strain on resources when footfall and sales soar. You need to plan and schedule your Christmas staffing levels carefully, taking on extra staff when demand peaks.
Many retailers extend opening hours in the run-up to Christmas and you may decide to do likewise. Naturally, staff won’t be overjoyed at working longer hours so identify times when you could get by with an (experienced) skeleton staff to give workers some additional time off.
Meanwhile, a Christmas bonus – so long as you can afford it – could keep morale, and service standards, high.
And, of course, your premises should be decked out in festive splendour and ready to welcome hordes of shoppers.
Don’t forget to organize your virtual yuletide too
Your website should reflect the spirit of the season – and, of course, include details of your opening hours during the holiday period. It’s also worth checking that your address and contact details are still accurate and easy to find, and that any necessary corrections are similarly applied to any online directory or other search engine listings.
If your marketing involves online or physical mailing campaigns, now is the right time for reviewing and updating your database to improve the targeting and success rate of your initiatives.
And you could give your social media strategy a seasonal facelift. Perhaps most important of all, your website should be primed and ready to handle the heavy volume of traffic you can expect over the holiday season.
Many now consider Black Friday to mark the start of the Christmas shopping period, while Small-Business Saturday, held this year on November 26, taps into the same seasonal consumer spirit. Now in its seventh year, this American Express-sponsored event encourages purchasers to ‘shop local’ and support communities.
Small Business Saturday underlines the importance of Christmas markets, fairs and promotions as a means of exploiting consumers’ greater willingness to spend, to make potential customers aware of your presence and forge links with the community. Such community-based activities might also attract the attention of local media hungry for any events with a seasonal focus.
Organize your post-Christmas sale
Once Christmas has passed, you are likely to be left with excess inventory and a pressing need to find space for the new season’s lines. A sale is the traditional answer, and these events never seem to lose their appeal for bargain hunters.
Now is the time to plan your own sale, followed by an analysis of the holiday period to inform your preparations for the following year’s festive season.
Melanie Luff is an Online Journalist for BusinessesForSale.com, the market-leading directory of business opportunities from Dynamis. Melanie writes for all titles in the Dynamis Stable including PropertySales.com and FranchiseSales.com.