Christmas is coming!
As I type this there are just a few days left of October, and suddenly Christmas is just around the corner. For retail based businesses it is the most exciting time of year, ⅓ of all money in retail is spent in the 6 weeks before Christmas, and for independent brands this figure can be much higher.
So what are the best things that you can do to prepare to sell your products at Christmas?
Recently on the podcast I chatted with Catherine Erdly, founder of the Resilient Retail Club, who helps product businesses start, grow and scale profitable businesses. Catherine had lots of fantastic ideas, and these are her top tips for preparing to sell your products at Christmas.
1 Be kind to your future self
Future you is going to be really busy packing orders. So what you can do now to help yourself out?
- Write the emails that you know you will be sending out. When you are busy and the orders start coming in you won’t necessarily have the time to write your newsletter. Write it now, pop it in your drafts and send when you are ready.
- Prepare and schedule the bulk of your social media posts for November and December – that will be a huge weight off your shoulders.
- Tidy your workspace – make sure that is everything is organized, and you know where to find things. Declutter so that you’ve got as much space as possible to work in.
- Do a stock take on your packaging and the supplies that you need – make sure that you know how much that you have got of everything. Put your order in now if you think you are running low. The last thing you want to do is run out of tape or stickers or boxes, and then go to the packaging supplier and find the lead time has suddenly extended from overnight to 2 weeks.
- Check that you have got the products you need, and any supplies & materials you need to make your products. Given the current delays and disruption to supply chain this is more relevant than ever.
- If you can’t make products ahead of time consider what you can do. Can you make up boxes? Can you fold your tissue paper? Is there anything that you can think of to speed things up so that when you are busy things run as smoothly as possible?
2 Are there any processes that need improving?
It is also a good time to review your processes, and check how they will stand up to the pressures of a busy period.
For instance, maybe it’s okay that you handwrite labels when you’ve got 3 orders a day, but what about when you have 30 orders a day? Do you need to get a label printer?
Do you have a clunky process where you have to download your addresses one by one and then paster them into the labels? Can you find an app that would sync it with your Shopify?
These little things will add up -if you can save 5 minutes per order, when you’ve got a lot of orders, that will make a real difference.
3 Streamline your communciation
If you haven’t already, consider getting a separate email address for your customer services. Most domains will allow you to get another email address for a small amount, and you could make it firstname.lastname@example.org
This means you don’t have to wade through your usual email and worry about missing messages. If you find it a bit overwhelming because people DM you with issues, you can put a note in your social media bio that says for customer service queries please email this address.
Once you have made this separate it is easier to hand this job over to someone else. Customer service can be done remotely.
Put an autoresponder on! People worry that they need to automatically reply – however if you emailed John Lewis you wouldn’t expect a response within 20 minutes. Set up an autoresponder that says thank you, explains the email address is monitored between 9-5, and that you endeavour to respond to everyone within 24 hours. Manage your customers expectations.
Another thing to consider is purchasing a pay as you go mobile phone just for Christmas. Add to your emails that for urgent enquiries customers should call this number. Then you can relax you because you know the only reason anyone will call that number is if it is urgent.
Think about ways that you can avoid spending the whole day monitoring messages and not getting anything done because you are worried that you will miss something.
4 Look after you
Don’t forget to look after you.
If you can possibly manage it, try to avoid big life events like moving house or getting a new puppy in the 6 weeks before Christmas. Life happens, but if you can reduce the external pressues that will be a huge help. And start your own Christmas shopping early!
Are there any things that you shouldn’t be doing between now and Christmas?
Now is not the time to start big new projects. You don’t want to be doing anything which isn’t business as usual. Things that should wait until the New Year include:
- Large scale technical changes such as switching email provider, replatforming your website or changing the theme.
- Taking on a new employee if it requires major research & a lengthy interview process.
- Changing your manufacturing process or fulfilment centre.
- Researching new products or suppliers
- Launching new products.
- Investigating new ideas such as starting on Pinterest, checking out Tik Tok, have someone look into your SEO.
Jot them down and save them for the New Year.
The one exception may be if Valentine’s Day and Mothering Sunday are a big part of your business, and some forward planning is needed. Generally as a rule of thumb if you have not done these things by the end of October, leave them until January.
I hope that these tips from Catherine have given you some good ideas for how you can prepare to sell your products this Christmas.
It’s an exciting time of year, with the most eyes on your business as customers look to buy that perfect gift for their loved one.
Your focus in November and December should be on despatching products, marketing your business and delighting your customers. Enjoy it!