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It’s no secret that the biggest event in the retail calendar is Christmas.

In a ‘normal year’ 20-40% of yearly sales for small- and mid-sized retailers happen in the last two months of the year. How your business performs over the Christmas period will influence the entire year and can make the difference between whether you sink or swim. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder it can be stressful, hectic, and problematic for businesses everywhere.

But if you prepare in advance and approach this time tactically, there’s no reason you can’t come out on top. If you’ve got a small window of time to achieve the sales you need to see you through the year, how can you set yourself up for success? 

And how has the COVID pandemic changed that?

Start early

Of course there are less shoppers walking through the doors of a retail premises in 2020, but it will always pay off to start promoting Christmas early. We all know someone who has their Christmas shopping completed by the end of July….

If you catch the people who start Christmas preparations early, you can extend your peak period. Take Selfridges for example. They were the first shop to reveal their Christmas windows in 2019, doing so in mid-October. Their Christmas shop has been operating for even longer, opening on July 29.

Even if people aren’t already in the Christmas mood, starting your festive marketing might influence them to get started. Wherever possible, maximise your window for Christmas sales.

Online has never been more crucial

With retail footfall at its lowest in decades, it’s never been more important to get your online offering in place and working well. There’s no limits to the number of customers you can allow onto your website, and no need for hand sanitiser or perspex screens when selling digitally.

Savvy businesses will know they can run an instore ePOS and a website on the same central system like Shopit, though it will take you a couple of weeks to get organised. Click and Collect is easier too as Adam Pritchard explains to Door4 in a recent interview, following the model so popular in Hong Kong where users buy online and pick up on the way home.

Integrating your web store with marketplaces like Amazon and ebay will inevitably boost your sales, though it will also put pressure on your stock management skills so you aren’t overselling and letting customers down.

Get in the festive spirit

Even if you’re a scrooge at heart, try to embrace the festive spirit for your business. Channel John Lewis with their highly anticipated Christmas advert or Coca-Cola with their touring red truck.

Some ideas for embracing the festivities are:

  • Adding seasonal touches to your online site and/or in-store POS
  • Creating online gift guides to show people what they need and what their loved ones will love
  • In-store stocking fillers by pay points or online stocking fillers by checkout
  • Creating a countdown to build a sense of urgency for customers and influences them to buy now.

Stagger your sales

Customers love Christmas sales. But if you go all out too soon, it can lose its effect. If you tactically introduce your sales and offers, you keep people interested and coming back for more. Online provides you with an easy way to drip feed and stagger your sales promotions too, with its native automation.

Introduce some small discounts the month before the big day, then gradually build up to a big Boxing Day sale. It’s about being competitive and keeping up with your competition while also holding back on big sales to get you through the post-Christmas slump. 

Getting Supremely Organised 

Above all else, to survive the Christmas period you need to be organised. Decide whenever you think you should start planning, and then plan even earlier than that. 

For eCommerce sites, it’s essential you get your Christmas delivery ironed out early. Try to be competitive with your cut-off and make sure every customer knows when to order by. The last thing you want is a New Year filled with customer complaints.

Do what you can to make the busy period as smooth as possible. Make sure you’re fully stocked and everything is in the right place early. If your business is in-person and online, get the balance right. Make sure you’ve found the right balance of stock allocation and marketing for both.

January will be a tough month, no matter your business. But do what you can to prepare for the slump. Perhaps you can hold back some sales to keep some interest through the New Year. You don’t want to hit January with no plan in place. So whatever you choose to do, plan it early.

For businesses everywhere, Christmas can be a time of stress, worry, and long days. But if you follow these tips, there’s no reason you can’t keep things running smoothly and minimise the stress. A successful Christmas period will set your business up for a strong New Year.

The Christmas period is hectic enough; the last thing you need is insufficient and unreliable eCommerce software. Ensure things run smoothly and you’re well prepared with Shopit. Manage multiple brands in multiple locations, keep up to date with inventory, and streamline your shipping and order processing. Find out more here.