How to prepare your business for the holidays

Burberry's store Christmas windows
Credit: Printemps

The holidays can be stressful. Weeks before the 25th of December, customers will begin their shopping. Shortly after, customers will start to seek out sales.

So what can small businesses do to prepare themselves for the festive season? 

Inventory

Be prepared. Past forecasts will tell you what products were popular in previous years. Researching current trends will tell you what you should consider selling for the first time.

Your suppliers are going to be very busy around this time of year, so make sure to put in all orders early to avoid disappointment. You want a smooth run, so ensure you have the stock you need beforehand.  

Marketing

Advertising has become a part of our daily lives. Companies want to sell you their products, so an increased effort is made during the holidays.

For those who are not fans of advertising, unfortunately, it’s a case of: ‘whoever shouts the loudest will always be heard.’

There are a number of approaches to consider.

1.    Traditional methods of advertising include television adverts, billboard adverts, adverts on bus stops, and advertising in newspapers and magazines. These are all viable options but may require a bigger budget.

2.    If traditional advertising is not for you, there are still plenty of ways to get your message across. Customers may appreciate a personal touch, sending out greeting cards along with samples (if this is possible) to your mailing list is one alternative method that could be cheap and efficient.

3.    Social media should be a part of your marketing strategy already. It can help elevate your brand during the festive season. Posting relevant content frequently is free, but if you want to reach a wider audience, you can always pay for advertising on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Any of these methods will require a budget and some time to plan. Think about how you want to be portrayed, and how your advertising could help you reach your end goal.

Staff

Staffing can be tricky during Winter.

1.    Employees will fall sick. This is inevitable during the colder months. Do sympathise with your staff if they fall ill. Pressuring an employee to come back in when they have not recovered could backfire, as they may continue to infect the whole team.

Hiring additional staff can help ease the additional workload that may build over the holiday season. Additional staff can also help out if anyone was to fall ill.

2. Employees will want time off.

If you normally experience a rush of customers over the holidays, compromises will have to be made. For example; did they work during the holidays last year? Are they working both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day? Can they travel to work on the days they are needed without incurring extra costs, and if not, are you willing to reimburse them for any additional travel costs?

However, if your business tends to slow down over the holidays, you may want to consider keeping staff to a minimum.

You will need to discuss all expectations with your employees, and make it clear from the start what is expected of them.

Make sure to keep staff motivated, and show them how much you appreciate their hard work. Inexpensive gestures could include, opening up a bottle of wine at the end of the day to share amongst your team, an office party, or greeting cards. Let your staff know how much you value them over the busy period.

Competition

Competitors may cut their prices during the holidays. You aren’t just competing with small businesses, but larger, possibly more established businesses.

Price is not the only way to influence a customer’s decision. Take some time to brainstorm a few ideas that can help you appeal to your customer base without sacrificing revenue.

Online marketplaces can cut into your profits; this is to be expected. According to data firm Experian, online shoppers on Christmas Day were expected to increase by 11% in 2015, so an online presence could allow you to appeal to a wider audience. 

So what should you remember?

  • Make sure your website is clear and clearly states your correct contact details, and social media links.
  • Be clear about delivery dates and times. Consider giving out free delivery on certain times, and promote holiday delivery dates in November.
  • Make sure your online offers are consistent with your in-store offers, unless it is an online exclusive.
  • Email out any offers to your online mailing list, and make sure it is linked correctly to your website.
  • Make sure your refunds policy is clear.
Cash Flow

Cash flow may become tight during the holidays with all the additional costs and inventory outlay. Keeping a clear cash flow forecast should help you stay in control of your spending.

The holidays should be enjoyable, even when you are running a business. Sufficiently preparing your business could guarantee a successful run, and allow you to start the new year on a positive note. 

Written on in Business Insights