Preparing your retail business for Christmas

For many retailers, Christmas is the most important time of the year. Thousands of businesses rely on the festive period for a significant proportion of their revenue, and it is vital that you make the most of it.

Many of us don’t particularly want to think about Christmas at the start of October. But if you want this Christmas to be a success, you need to start planning now. So how can you prepare your retail business for the festive season?

Develop a strategy

To begin with, you should make sure that you have a comprehensive strategy to help you deal with the Christmas rush. Consider the resource demands that this period might cause. Do you have everything you need to help you cope? If you have been in business more than a year, look back over previous Christmas figures and use these to help you determine what to expect.

Take on extra staff

Many businesses find that they need to take on extra staff to help them deal with the Christmas rush. If you anticipate that this will be the case, you should be thinking about finding those workers now. Temporary workers from agencies are generally in high demand over Christmas and, while it might well be that fewer businesses are hiring this year, it is still worth arranging your temps sooner rather than later.

It is worth remembering, however, that agencies are not always the most cost effective way of hiring short-term staff members. You might be able to get a better deal by hiring directly, without a ‘middleman’ – but make sure that you understand the relevant employment laws before doing so.

Order extra stock

If you are expecting high numbers of customers, the chances are you will need to order in extra stock. As well as taking on seasonal items (for example Christmas-themed wrapping paper to offer a giftwrap service), you should consider bolstering you stock of perennial favourites. The items that sell well during the rest of the year are likely to sell even better over the Christmas period. In addition, high-ticket items may be popular amongst those looking for gifts. Finally, you should consider this year’s ‘buzz’ items. What are the ‘must-have’ products in your sector this season?

Think about window displays

Competition for customers is particularly fierce over the Christmas period. If you want to increase your footfall and really fulfil your potential, you need to make your premises as attractive and inviting as possible. Window displays are amongst the most important means by which you can achieve this.

Make sure that your window display is seasonally themed, and that your most desirable products and deals are prominently displayed. You should also try to develop displays that highlight the unique aspects of your company. Why should people visit your shop and not the one next-door?

It is important, though, that you do not feel confined by your premises. Rather than waiting for customers to come to you, why not go to them? Head out into the street and offer samples or vouchers to passers-by. This is a great way to entice people into your shop and generate a buzz on the High Street.

Think about your website

You also need to think about the impact of the Christmas season on your website. If you are expecting higher customer numbers in your shop, it is likely that this increase will be reflected online. You may need to consider contacting your hosting company to make arrangements for potential spikes in traffic.

You should also think about SEO. The search terms users enter are likely to change over the Christmas period, and your SEO practices should take this into account. Consider developing Christmas-themed landing pages, or paying for festive PPC adverts to increase your click-through rates.

Prepare for the sales

Finally, you should also remember that the Christmas period is closely followed by the January sales. The sales are starting earlier and earlier; indeed, in many cases they now start on Boxing Day. Think about what your competitors are doing, and consider ways that you can take advantage of this vitally important period. For example, should you run a direct mail campaign to help drive custom? Should you send out an email newsletter?

Christmas is a vitally important period for many retailers. By taking a few simple preparatory steps you can boost footfall, increase sales, and improve your bottom line.