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Small Business Survival Guide: How To Make It Through The Festive Season

23 November 2017
4 minute read

The festive season is a time to celebrate and enjoy the the boost in holiday sales, but the rush of business isn’t without pressures too. That’s why it’s important that businesses make the most of this window of opportunity by planning effectively. According to research, 53% of SMEs make no change of plans for the Christmas period, which means they could be missing out on revenue, losing out to competitors and causing themselves seasonal stress.

To make sure your business is prepared in the run up to the holidays, here’s a business survival guide to get you started:

Plan Your Staff Rota + Keep Everyone Happy!

When it comes to planning your employees’ schedules, it’s essential that this is done as early on as possible to avoid problems later on. Research reveals that 21% of independent retailers struggle with managing increased holiday requests from staff. Although it can be tricky to accommodate everyone, being clear about what hours you need covered, and getting visibility on your team’s availability will really help.

Once this is done you can draw up a rota or schedule and share it amongst your staff so they are able to swap shifts if needed and adjust their plans. This will then give you time to hire temporary workers to cover any staff shortages. And although a lot of your staff will want time off to spend with their families, some may also be incentivised to work overtime for extra pay and benefits!

Keep An Eye On Cashflow

Cash flow often becomes an issue for businesses during the holidays. While this time of year could bring a lot of money in, it’s also the time of year when expenses could be at an all-time high. Whether you’re paying for seasonal stock upfront, need to pay off outstanding invoices, deal with expenses such as additional staff hires, or account for days when you’ll be closed, making sure you have sufficient funds (and even an emergency backup fund) will really help. You should also try to get all your invoices in before the middle of December so you are able to chase these up in the new year!

Manage Stock and Suppliers

When it comes to managing your stock, your demand is likely to differ from the rest of the year. Investing in technology can help take the stress out of this by alerting you when your stock is low, while giving you a live update on your general stock levels and allowing you time to plan your orders ahead.

It's also a good idea to take a look at last year’s data to see which of your products sold particularly well and what didn’t. This will help you decide what stock you need to order in and help you decide what to promote and upsell.

As well as this, you’ll need to account for your suppliers being extra busy at this time of year. Therefore communication is absolutely essential. Find out what their holiday operating hours are, how far in advance you need to place orders and if there will be any changes to their normal delivery times.

Offers And Promotions

Although offers and promotions are often saved for the January sales, the growing popularity of events such as Black Friday means that consumers now expect to see new deals before the year is out. Before deciding on what promotions you’re going to run, look at historic data of what sold well in previous years and which products or offerings helped to boost sales. Whilst doing this,always be aware they are products or items that you can afford to promote without drastically affecting your profit margins.

Opening Hours

Festive opening times vary from business to business, and it’s important to consider how you can cater to your customers in this busy time. Once this has been decided communicate this widely across your premises, social media channels, website and any marketing campaigns that you have.

Prepare For The New Year

While there’s no denying that the holidays can generate a surge of sales and profits, amongst the rush it’s important to find time to wind down and prepare for the year ahead. Any spare time should be used wisely for catching up on admin, getting up to date with accounts, sorting out your tax, scheduling in important meetings, putting a new marketing strategy in place and also creating a new year budgeting plan. You could start with forecasting for the year ahead, beginning preparing for new year promotions and January business opportunities.

Many businesses also use the festive period to reconnect with clients, stakeholders and customers. You could thank them for their support so far, send them new year greetings and let them know what you have planned for the year ahead (any special projects or promotions for example). After all, building and strengthening those relationships will help to support you all year round!

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