Business owners, are you ready?
The silly season is a breath away, the hordes of stressed-out consumers are about to descend, and you need a plan!
Christmas is, of course, a lucrative time for many small business owners, but it also puts a lot of strain on tight resources. Preparing your business for the onslaught will help you reap the rewards without losing too much hair.
Possibly the most obvious area you will want to be ready is your inventory. Do you have enough to see you through Christmas? What about the post-holiday sales?
Inventory management is a fine art. While you definitely don’t want to run out of stock over the busiest time of the year, you also don’t want to tie up your cash flow in an over-supply. Look over last year’s data (if you were trading then) to get an idea of how much stock you may need this year.
Still have surplus stock from last year you need to move? A pre-Christmas clearance might be just the thing. Which conveniently brings us to….
While your customers are actively looking to spend their hard-earned cash at Christmas, it’s also harder for your business to stand out amidst the chaos. You need to have a good promotional strategy and the earlier you get started, the better.
Free gift-wrapping? Gift with purchases over a certain amount? Have a clear plan for what deals or discounts you will offer, when you will offer them, and how many channels you will use to push your promotions. It’s also important to keep your marketing message consistent across all channels.
Get your website ready
Just as brick-and-mortar stores get a crush of customers over Christmas and the post-holiday sales, so will your online store. Will it be able to handle the extra traffic or will you have a ‘Census Night 2’ on your hands?
With the prevalence of online shopping, if you haven’t already made your site responsive, now is the perfect time. The amount of people that shop on their phones is staggering, and you don’t want them to go somewhere else because your site doesn’t translate.
You will also want to make sure your checkout process is flawless and your shipping rates and expected delivery times are very, very clear. And don’t forget your Christmas themed landing pages!
Christmas is just the beginning. The post-holiday sales can be just as busy as the lead up to Christmas, and you need to be ready.
Hopefully you will have your inventory, website, and promotions organised as part of your Christmas readiness. Now you’ll also want a clear, streamlined returns policy and procedure. Do you offer free return shipping? How will customers be credited? What happens when the return is an unwanted gift and there’s no receipt? Your staff also need to be across this, so train them up.
If you’ve sold gift-cards in the lead up to Christmas you’ll likely be seeing them again during the sales. If this isn’t something that happens that frequently during the rest of the year, you’ll want to make sure you and your staff know how to process them.
With a little preparation you can avoid a lot of headaches this Christmas. If you haven’t started planning already, now is the time to get started.
Aja is Sydney-based writer and serial entrepreneur. She regularly writes about small business, entrepreneurship, and health and wellbeing. Her latest entrepreneurial adventure is yeahmama.co.