If you’re in the retail or hospitality game, it’s never too early to get your business ready for the festive frenzy.
For many retail and hospitality businesses the festive season is by far the busiest time of the year. Nonetheless, many shops, restaurants, hotels and travel agents make less than they otherwise might due to insufficient planning, poor risk management or failing to convert first-time buyers into long-term customers.
Closing the deal
December is the busiest month of the year for MyDeal.com.au, an Australian online marketplace that turned over $35 million last year.
Christmas is a once-in-a-year opportunity to build your customer base, says the company’s founder Sean Senvirtne. But you need to prepare properly, he adds. Senvirtne negotiates with suppliers months in advance to ensure keenly priced stock is delivered when he most needs it. Senvirtne also reviews his company’s website well before things get frantic. He makes sure it’s updated with the latest user-friendly features and is able to cope with a surge in demand.
“We leverage the occasion as an opportunity to promote our brand and attract new customers through Christmas campaigns,” he says. “Making sure customers have an excellent service experience and receive their orders before December 25 is a priority. We prepare our team for an influx of orders and train new team members to cope with the spike in demand.”
How to get organised
Whether you’re a venue owner hoping for a slew of party bookings or a retailer salivating at the thought of shifting a heap of stocking stuffers, you should follow Senvirtne’s example and prepare early. Here are some suggestions on how to do that.
Forward plan your marketing
If you have seasonal stock coming in, or a Christmas menu to launch, getting the photography sorted, brochures printed and catalogues mailed as soon as is feasible is a smart move. That way you’ll be promoting your business when customers are considering their Christmas plans and purchases rather than desperately trying to find a photographer, graphic designer or printer.
Likewise, social media posts should be written and scheduled in advance. You want to be able to concentrate on serving customers when the insanely busy period hits. You definitely don’t want to be trying to find time to update your business’s Facebook or Instagram feed.
Make outsourcing arrangements
Would an exceptional influx of orders challenge your business’s capacity to get goods delivered at the lightning pace online shoppers now expect? If so, you might wish to consider delegating all or some of this task to a third-party logistics firm. If you already do this, think about arranging for that firm to double or triple their usual number of deliveries during peak times.
“We leverage the occasion as an opportunity to promote our brand and attract new customers through Christmas campaigns.”
Get your staffing arrangements sorted
Greater customer demand means you’ll either need all hands on deck, more hands on deck, or both to ensure orders are processed and cash registers get manned. Well in advance of December, talk with your staff about them doing overtime (or at least delaying any leave) and, if required, recruit casual workers.
Order early and enthusiastically
How often have you put your money back in your pocket after a business owner told you they were out of something you wanted to buy? Don’t be that business owner. Order early and where it’s not risky to do so, err on the side of ordering too much.
Cover yourself for Christmas
Christmas is a high-stakes period where you can make record profits but also lose a lot of money if something goes wrong.
If you are ordering large amounts of stock or putting on lots of staff, you should have a chat with your broker to check your business insurance policy can provide sufficient cover in the event of any issues with that stock or those staffers. Likewise, it’s worth checking on your workers’ compensation insurance if you’re going to be putting on a lot of inexperienced workers during a frantic trading period.
As well as making sure your own house is in order, consider what could happen if a business you’ve outsourced work to lets you down (imagine what could happen to your business’s reputation if, for example, the courier service you hire fails to make all necessary deliveries by December 25). Once again, check with your broker that you can be covered if these kinds of events occur.
In fact, if you’ve got any concerns or queries about your business’s insurance policies, it’s a good idea to contact your broker well before the Christmas rush starts, to make sure you have the cover you require to cope with any festive-season snafus.