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The Ultimate Guide to Getting ready for Christmas 2018

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The Ultimate Guide to Getting ready for Christmas 2018 for Product-Based Businesses

Seasons Greetings

Ah, Christmas. That magical time of year where everyone is filled with love, peace, and joy towards our fellow humans.

Well, perhaps that is how you feel if you don’t work in retail! For those of us who do, Christmas is the ultimate adrenaline-filled, action-packed, make-or-break time of the year.

UK households are expected to spend a combined £80 billion this year, with a large proportion of that being on gifts. There is no doubt that for small businesses, this is a THE time of year to make sales, reach out to new customers and grow your brand.

Expect It To Be Busy

During the peak months, you can expect to see higher traffic to your website, and more people in your stores if you have a physical shop.

All of this should, (fingers-crossed) be translating into higher sales, with more stock to be sent out and more customer service queries to deal with.

This is the perfect time to get your marketing messages really focused and effective. You need to plan any promotions that you want to do and think about how you can reach out to your customer at this crucial time of year. You want to convince them that your products are the perfect gift for others or treat for themselves.

As a small business owner, you are also juggling getting ready for this peak time with all of your other personal commitments. In other words, the pressure is on and there is a lot to do!

But Don't Panic

If all of this talk about getting ready for Christmas has got you feeling stressed-out and anxious, even though we're a few months away, don't worry!

Yes, it's a busy time. Yes, there will be a lot of things for you to juggle. But the good news is that you can prepare a lot in advance so that your main focus during the peak months is purely on driving sales. During those months, you should be selling and talking to your customers to make sure they are delighted with what they buy and the service they receive, not frantically looking for images for an unplanned promotion.

At the end of this article, I will tell you more about my checklist with key dates that you can download here to make Christmas planning a breeze - but for now, here's a step-by-step guide to preparing for your best Christmas yet. I've drawn on my experience of managing large chains of stores during peak trading, as well as working with many small and start-up retailers to understand your unique challenges.

If you've missed some of these steps already, don't worry, just pick up where you can! Remember, anything that you do in preparation for the busiest months of the year will help your whole life run more smoothly.

Step-by-Step Guide To Christmas Preparation

Summer

Christmas Tree In Summer

1. Decide on your Christmas range. This doesn’t have to be all Christmas themed, or even new products. But it’s useful to identify what you are going to push during the peak time period.
For makers, now is a good time to make bulk stock of the products that you have identified as making up part of your range.
Arrange final orders and confirm deliveries with your suppliers so that you are not having a last minute scramble for stock or materials.

2. Planning - both practically and financially, can make a huge difference in how successful your holiday season turns out to be. Take the time to plan your Christmas sales based on what you know you want to achieve for your business. That might be an increase on last year, or if it's your first year, you may want to make it to a milestone like your 100th sale!
Creating a plan will give you something to aim at, and an enormous sense of achievement when you hit your plans. Creating a plan by item will allow you to check you have the right amount of stock - a very important point to clarify well in advance of the holiday season!
Look at your previous year’s sales to identify when your sales are likely to peak at Christmas, or if you don’t have previous year's to go on, download my checklist here which contains key dates as well as the expected sales peaks for popular types of product.

3. Many big gift guides for magazines will have finalised their Christmas features in the Spring. However, it's worth researching and reaching out to publications to feature your products who have shorter lead-times.

September

1. This is the perfect time to run campaigns to get more email addresses in time for your Christmas marketing - e.g. competitions, giveaways. The more people you have on your email list going into the festive period, the more people you’ll be able to target directly with your Christmas products and offers. Email marketing remains one of the highest converting marketing methods, so it’s worth giving it some extra attention before Christmas.

2. Block out a day to plan out your Christmas marketing
Decide now which of the (many) promotional events e.g. Black Friday/Cyber Monday you want to get involved with over the Christmas period.
Create a weekly planner for your promotions, offers, and other messages.
Do you want a theme for your Christmas marketing? Think about how the big retailers tie all their festive messaging across all platforms together under one theme.
Identify hero products to feature in your campaigns.
Create your social media posts in bulk - you could even schedule them now if you use a scheduling tool like Hootsuite!
Map out and write your Christmas emails to your customers.
Decide if you are running a Boxing Day Sale and plan your messaging.
Plan and budget for any paid advertising you are considering.
Create any new photos/graphics that you might need - where you can, add a festive touch to existing product photography, or create new shots/videos.

3. Book any last minute Christmas fairs that still have availability.
Check through any equipment or signage that you might need - make sure it is all clean and ready to go to avoid any last minute dramas.

4. If your products are stocked in other retailers, let them know when you are planning on going on sale so that they don’t have any surprises. It’s a great opportunity to check in with them and see how things are going, not to mention a way to build trust in your relationship.

5. Do you want to have specific packaging for Christmas? E.g. Festive tissue or envelopes? Plan and order that now.

October

1. Check all staffing requirements - book any extra help you might need to get packages sent, man your stall or shop, answer customer queries or just have an extra pair of hands!

2. Get your website ready:
Plan a thorough check of the website to make sure that all processes are working correctly - now would be the perfect time to ask friends and family to test it for any bugs or issues.
Look at all your product descriptions and titles - do you need to update them to make them more Christmas-specific? How will your customer search for your product during the holiday season? Think of season-specific SEO terms like “stocking filler” and so on.

3. Refine your week-by-week planner for the peak weeks
Make sure you have all the relevant dates for promotions being run by any partner organisations - e.g. Etsy, NOTHS - what are their key dates?
Check into any important local dates you could tie in to with your social media e.g. switching on lights etc.

4. Check all of your basic business services are ready to go and set up for the big push - you don’t want to be worrying about shopping around for insurance in December!

5. Late October (after Halloween) is the perfect time to launch your Christmas campaign/switch over the website/graphics/windows to more festive themes. If you don’t want to go all in with a full festive launch, you could add a few teaser images to your social media. But don’t leave it too long - most retail goes all-in for Christmas from now onwards!

November

1. Update your business listings with your Christmas opening hours (if relevant).

2. Review your week-by-week planner again. By this point, the last posting dates should have been released. Make sure that your website is accurate and review your promotional plan to make sure you have the correct messaging around last chance to buy etc.

3. If you’ve decided to have a Boxing Day sale, now is the time to review which products you want to put into that sale. Take a look at what is selling, and make a decision about which products are not working and need to be cleared.

4. Get set for Black Friday. There’s no getting away from it, this American import is here to stay. Make sure you have thought logically about what you want to promote if you are participating - don’t get sucked into a last minute discounting frenzy to drive sales!

5. Sell, sell, sell! Sales should have started to build - in fact, for some types of products, this may be a bigger month for you than December. (For more details on the sales peaks, download the checklist with key dates here).

December

Sell, sell, sell!

This really should be your main activity for this month, which is why you want to do as much as possible ahead of time. Remember that this is the time of year where you will be reaching more customers than at any other time, so make sure you are surprising and delighting them now so that they come back in the new year.

January 2019

1. Time to start the whole cycle again! What did you learn? Everything that happens, good or bad, will be a building block for an even better Christmas the following year. Review sales from Christmas, make a note of any lessons learnt. Brainstorm product ideas while Christmas is still fresh in your mind.

2. Make sure you block out the time to return all of your messaging/website to “business as usual”

3. Book any major Christmas fairs you want to take part in for 2019 - some book up this far in advance.

May 2019

If you want to get featured in holiday gift guides, start reaching out now - some magazines will be finalising these now.

Laughing All The Way

If there’s one thing that I hope you take away from this article, it’s that it IS possible, and desirable, to prepare as much as you can in advance, so that you can focus and (dare I say it?) enjoy the busy selling period.

Get the checklist

Click below for a downloadable checklist that you can print out and tick off to keep you on track. You’ll also get all the key trading dates you’ll want for your week-by-week planner, as well as the predicted peak sales times for popular types of products.

How do you prepare for Christmas? I’d love to hear about any tips that you swear by to get you ready for the Christmas rush. Comment below, and let me know if I’ve missed any!
 

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