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Are You Ready For Christmas?

By Jon Sawyer on 09/11/2015 - 0 Comments

Getting things right for Christmas is not the sole preserve of the retail sector – all businesses need to plan for it.

Are you working to a plan to increase your Christmas sales this year? As the Christmas advertisements start to hit in the first week of November, we are virtually on top of Black Friday which heralds a dramatic spike in sales in the run up to the festive season. So have you got everything planned out to maximise your sales and ensure your business can cope with demand?

Can your operation cope with an increase in sales and do you have full / trained staff cover to cope over the festive season?

Planning in the run-up to and during the Christmas period is essential for all business owners. All businesses should have a plan in place as there are significant pitfalls if things go wrong, where the impact is on the business owner who may be unable to take time off. This article suggests some ways in which you can ensure you can reap the rewards this festive season.

Most Business Owner Work Throughout Their Holidays!
This is a surprising statement if you run your own business. However, consider this…..if you are in some business sectors such as retailing, failure to take advantage of Christmas sales may mean that you have a bad year. Many businesses may be unable to cope with existing orders as staffing levels may be inadequate. As a result business owners may think they cannot take a holiday.

According to a study by OnePoll on behalf of Xero, three quarters of UK small business owners’ work throughout their holidays, with almost half spending as much as three hours per day on such tasks. Some 15 per cent will spend more than half a day working, while 17 per cent take no time off at all.

Xero managing director Gary Turner says, 'As Christmas approaches, small business owners, like anyone else, deserve a break. But these results highlight that even during a time like the festive season, it isn’t possible for most of them to switch off altogether.' Managing a work lifestyle balance is key if you are to reap the rewards from your business and be able to take some time off.

The Impact of Black Friday
According to internet retail experts IMRG, an estimated £810m was spent online by British shoppers on Black Friday in 2014: the big-discount November shopping day that heralds in the Christmas holiday season. Online sales were 50% more than industry experts had predicted. However, whilst businesses are used to boxing day and January sales, some retailers reported that Black Friday created an unnecessary strain on their business.

So what is the answer? The answer is in good solid planning and there are some important steps to get it right.

Steps to Getting it Right This Christmas

Step 1 – Make Sure Your Web Site Can Cope
Christmas is a time to make the most of increased traffic. The first key is to make sure your web site is robust and can cope with this increase. Many web sites crashed in the run up to Christmas 2014 as they couldn’t cope with demand, and this applied to some of the bigger retailers as well. Have a look at your website and make sure it’s ‘fit for purpose’.

Are all the links working and does it provide all the information that is needed in terms of opening hours, and is all the information in a simple and easily understood format?

Step 2 – Get your Marketing Offer Right
Make sure you can excite your customers now by having a marketing campaign in place to maximise pay per click and SEO, so that you can drive traffic to your web site. The focus on Black Friday for most companies is to have a discount offer that will entice sales. Make sure your offer is right for your business and will still deliver a return whilst tempting customers to try your product or service. Give customers what they want. This may mean that you can focus on fewer higher margin products or service items during this period that are going to drive the greatest return for you.

A study of over 300 SMEs employing up to 250 people commissioned by the Royal Mail Group in Nov 2014 revealed price promotion is the most common activity to win customer sales this Christmas. One in six (57 per cent) of those surveyed said they planned to use that tactic. This second most popular promotional activity to be used by UK SME online retailers is free delivery (55 per cent), the study found. Free returns will be offered to shoppers by 35 per cent of online retailers surveyed.

Once your marketing offer is decided then make sure your web site is ready, and do this early. Royal Mail Group research found that UK SME online retailers are planning to start their Christmas promotions in early November - a week earlier than last year - as they prepare to win their share of festive sales. So the key is to decide on your offer, and once you have done so, to test your web site so that you are confident it is reliable and can cope with the anticipated traffic.

Step 3 – Ensure Your Business Can Deliver On Time
Review your delivery terms and make sure your company can keep up with requirements. Many of the lessons learned from Black Friday were around fulfilment.

Out of stocks and failure to deliver on time were being reported for many in 2014. The key is to be transparent with customers. Shoppers may be prepared to wait longer if they believe they’re getting value for money.

Step 4 – Keep Adequate Stocks
Failure to have sufficient supplies of products may significantly impact your business, not just in terms of lost sales, but also in potential damage to your reputation.

Customers will not want to wait for long to receive their product, and if they do, then this will create a lasting memory. This means that you may need a strategy in place for getting additional supplies if required.

Step 5 – Plan Your Staffing Cover
A key element to managing the Christmas season is making sure you have sufficient staff cover to cope with demand. Most employees will want to take time off during this period, and it may be this period that generates the most sales. The key is in staff holiday planning now to make sure your staff know which dates they are in work so you can plan to have adequate cover.

If you need further staff cover you may need to start recruiting now. This also has an impact on staff training, in which case a refresher course may be appropriate for existing staff. For some companies, Christmas may be a slow sales period and so it is this time that you would like them to be taking their holiday, and so start talking to them now about this.

What Do You Want to Get Out of Christmas?
Research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Xero found that there are clear distinctions between the different generations of business owners in terms of what they want from Christmas. They found that 71% of those aged 45-54 wanted to increase profit compared to 35% aged 18-24.

This may suggest that younger businesses owners are better able to cope with managing priorities over the festive season, with just 17 per cent of 18-24s and 10 per cent of 25-34s feeling like they need to improve their work-life balance, compared with 39 per cent of 45-54s and 42 per cent of over 55s.

Getting a work/life balance and being able to take some ‘down time’ is crucial if business owners are to fully reap the rewards of running a business.

Whatever you may want to get out of Christmas, the key is to have a solid plan in place, and if you haven’t, then start planning now.

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