Planning for the Bumper Festive Season

We might have only just said goodbye to another summer, but small business owners should always have one eye on the future. As we’ve mentioned before [i], planning is an important factor in helping to drive success going forward. And over the coming festive season, many SMEs will be hoping to increase sales during the busy shopping period. Last year, IMRG recorded [ii] nearly £1.4bn spent online on the Black Friday sales day alone — an increase of almost 12% from 2016.

That’s a potentially major windfall for the nation’s small businesses. But blink and you’ll miss it. That’s why it’s important to start planning now for Christmas 2018.

Shout about the season

Nowadays the festive shopping period has been pushed forward even further to November, when the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend takes place. Although it was originally invented across the Pond by retailers looking to benefit from consumers enjoying a Thanksgiving long weekend, it’s become a firm favourite in the UK. You’ll see heavy discounting from some of the major stores in an attempt to draw in the crowds off- and online.

SMEs could also consider offering discounts across Black Friday and in the run-up to Christmas to help drive sales and consumer interest. However, always make sure that doing so will not plunge your business into financial difficulties. 

There are other ways to help promote your business to consumers over the coming months. Consider running some seasonal events: for example, around Halloween, Bonfire Night, or close to Christmas. These can be a good way to connect with the local community, especially if you are an online-only business and therefore don’t have a visible presence. Get the local paper down to cover the event to maximise your chance of exposure.

Plan your staffing costs

Away from the fun marketing campaigns, there’s always the operational side of running a business to keep you busy. It’s worth thinking about how many staff you’ll need over the busy Christmas period. If you work in the hospitality sector, you may need to hire a significant extra number of temporary employees to cover the seasonal rush. 

On the other hand, you might be able to cope with your permanent staff. Either way, if you haven’t already, remember they may expect seasonal overtime. Also, even hiring temp workers will require you to take out employers’ liability insurance [iii]. It pays to understand what the extra outlay may come to so that you’re not caught flat-footed financially. If Christmas isn’t a busy time for your business, it may even be worth closing early, although it’s best to give your customers plenty of advanced notice if you plan to do so. 

Beware the Christmas scammers

Christmas may be the season of goodwill, but unfortunately it also attracts scammers, cyber-criminals and thieves. Between 2013 and 2016, stock worth £184m [iv] was stolen from businesses, and with extra being produced for the seasonal rush, there’ll be more booty for the bad guys to target. Be extra careful to ensure your premises are secure and that you have insurance in case the worst happens.

Even online businesses have to take care at Christmas. Experts believe that scammers could target e-tailers over this period as they attempt to hide their fraudulent transactions [v] amidst the larger volumes of traffic, hoping businesses will be more focused on profits than security. One fraud prevention firm predicted more than 50 million [vi] global fraud attempts during Black Friday week last year.

Reach out to tourists

Although many visitors to the UK will save their trip for the summer months, the prospect of a Christmas-time influx from abroad could also spark opportunities to drive sales — especially in major centres like London and Edinburgh. According to Visit Britain [vii]: “For visitors from most countries, the pound has remained lower than its pre-referendum level and is forecast to continue to be weak throughout the medium term, indicating that Britain will remain a good value for money destination.”

That’s good news for SME owners. To maximise your potential takings, consider supporting foreign payment cards like China UnionPay, or offer services like Dynamic Currency Conversion, which allows shoppers to see the price of an item in their local currency. Prominently displaying tax-free shopping prices on your goods might also help encourage foreign consumers, as might signs written in foreign languages.

If you find that planning for the festive season will require a significant financial investment, you might also want to consider Worldpay Business Finance. It offers flexible funding of up to £300,000, available within days, with repayments taken as a fixed percentage of each card transaction.

Whatever you’re planning for the festive season, good luck over the coming weeks.