Whether you love it or hate it, these days, Christmas goods appear in the shops just as children return to school. As a consumer, you may be on the hate side and join those complaining that the beginning of September is way too early to be thinking about Christmas.
But as a small business owner, it’s certainly not too early. If you haven’t thought about Christmas yet, you need to start now, so you can make the best of what is, for most businesses, the most lucrative time of year.
Supply and demand
You may not like walking past rolls of Christmas paper in September, but a significant number of people do.
According to research by Statista in 2017, 23% of people have started Christmas shopping by the end of September (10% of these start before July!). 53% start making festive purchases in October and November, with only 24% brave enough to leave it until December.
So the message is, if you sell festive items, items likely to be purchased as gifts or items likely to be used more or purchased for Christmas (e.g. cooking utensils, entertainment electricals or put-up beds for those Christmas visitors!), buy plenty of stock and get it on your shelves or your website now.
Stock up on essentials early
It’s worth stocking up on packing materials, carrier bags, gift wrapping accessories, or even just office supplies so that you’re not caught out during the Christmas season or forced to lose time on supply runs.
Look back—and forward
Before you devise your Christmas selling strategy, look back at your figures form last year. What sold well last year and what didn’t? Which of your Christmas promotions was most successful? How can you replicate or improve on those successes?
Of course, you need to look forward too, to make use of emerging trends and short-lived fads while being aware of what’s going out of style.
Think about your Christmas opening hours
If you run a totally or partially bricks-and-mortar business, have you previously tried extending your opening hours as it gets nearer to Christmas? If not, it could be worth a try. If other stores round you extend their hours, try to mirror what they do so that you can access customers on their way to those stores.
Remember to advertise what your opening hours will be over the festive season so that people aren’t disappointed by finding you closed.
Think about your staffing
Yes, that’s staffing, not stuffing! How well did you and your existing staff cope with the Christmas rush last year? What tasks would it have been most helpful to have an extra pair of hands for?
Consider hiring extra staff, even if it’s just for your peak two or three weeks. You may not need highly experienced, expensive staff if there are simple tasks that they could do, freeing up your regular staff members for the more complex jobs. However, bear in mind that any new staff will need a few days to get a feel for the work and that is best done before you get frantically busy. Virtual Pas and temporary admin assistants are worth considering too.
Finally, have a deadline for booking Christmas annual leave so that you know well in advance how many staff you’ll have available at any time.
Give your website a Christmas makeover
Before things get frantic, take the time (or employ someone else to take the time) to review your website, making sure that:
Stock is listed correctly and consistently and spelt correctly. This is essential for your site’s search engine to give the right results. Some time ago, Tesco had some of its toilet rolls listed on its site as toilet tolls and the rest listed as loo rolls, not to mention a smattering of spelling errors that made some products impossible to find
There are no glitches and all links work correctly
The checkout and payment process work correctly
Your opening hours, estimated delivery times and last order dates are prominently displayed
The site headlines any Christmas promotions
If possible, you give the site a Christmassy look! Just changing the background image to one with snowflakes on will be an improvement
Deck the halls
However much of a Scrooge you may be, leave that side of you at home. Putting your customers in a festive mood is likely to make them hang around longer and buy more and your staff will appreciate a little Christmas spirit too, so give any physical premises you have a dash of festive cheer.
Where decorations and lights are concerned, think cosy and tasteful. And talking of cosy, keep your shop warm and well-lit, encouraging people to come in (and to linger!) on cold, wet, dark days!
Hang on to your shorts and sandals a little longer if you must, but when it comes to business, mix yourself up some eggnog, turn up the festive tunes to full volume and start planning your best business Christmas yet!
Have you started preparing your business for Christmas yet? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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