The small business survival guide to Christmas

Raj Sond, general manager of First Data, gives us his small business survival guide for Christmas.

 The small business survival guide to Christmas

Christmas often creeps up on us and before we’ve realised it the festivities of the season are well underway. What this means for many SMEs is Christmas songs on loop, masses of shoppers in an already overcrowded store, not to mention all the extra hours put in to serve the Christmas shopping masses.

With increasing staff holidays, supplier closures, and staff party costs, it’s no surprise that SME retailers can feel super stressed rather than super festive.

It’s demoralising yet understandable that many of the UK’s SMEs find themselves under so much pressure of Christmas time. However, with some precise planning well ahead of time businesses could get involved with the yuletide merriment.

First Data conducted research revealing the struggles SMEs face over the Christmas period – with almost a quarter (23 per cent) of them admitting they do not enjoy the festivities at all – and can provide the following advice to ‘survive’ Christmas.

How prepared are you?

According to our research, a massive 53 per cent of SMEs make no business plans for the Christmas period whatsoever. During the peak season for retailers, it’s alarming that businesses aren’t preparing more methodically in advance of the season.

Having plans in place for staffing, supplies and increased activity will mean the difference between a prosperous trading period and falling into the red for many SMEs.

Thanks to the ‘Black Friday effect’ British shoppers now expect to see some sort of money-saving promotions or offers in the weeks and days before Christmas.

Ever a savvy bargain hunter, the British consumer is always shopping around for the best deal rather than remaining loyal to a particular retailer. If you are to offer your customers the competitive promotions they’re hunting for, then you must plan ahead of time.

In order to be really affective with your promotional offerings, do some analysis into your trading history. You’re going to have to use the right software to do so, but this is valuable technology for businesses small and large.

In doing so, you’re highly likely to spot trends from previous Christmas seasons – did specific products sell particularly well? A quick look into your data will help you to provide the right promotions that will ultimately increase sales, you’ll also be able to order the right stock in good time.

Does Christmas make you stressed?

Stress levels will be intrinsically linked to how well you have planned ahead of time. Getting your Christmas ducks in row in mid-summer (really!) will stand you in good stead for when the festive season kicks off – which seems to be increasingly earlier every year.

Manage your own stress levels and make your work life easier by employing technology to help you run business operations. Technology will help you with accounts, staffing, stock and customer data.

For example, if you have access to live stock levels, you’ll be able to see when certain items are running low, without manually sifting through items in your stock cupboard, making sure that you place your orders with suppliers ahead of time.

Our research revealed that over one fifth (21 per cent) of independent retailers struggle with managing increased holiday requests from staff. Undeniably, it’s common for your workforce to want to spend the festive period with family and friends, just as much as you do, and being the store owner can often mean you’re playing Scrooge when it comes to allowing holiday for your staff.

But by getting your post-Christmas preparations in place, less time will be required from your staff pre-Christmas to rearrange the shop floor, decorations and promotions.

You could also incentivise staff if they are performing well – if you can see which of your staff are selling the most, or are receiving the most tips you could offer them first choice of festive holiday dates.

Feeling overworked?

Like it or not, at the end of the year we can all feel as though we deserve a break. SME retailers have to work the hardest at this time of year, undoubtedly, and the pace can feel relentless. You need to give yourself time to wind down or face burning out at the most significant season for your business. Where there is the will, there’s a way.

There are technologies you can implement that allow remote working, even for small businesses, so you can spend time with your loved ones. Failing that, you can revert to spending long nights in the shop working out how to boost sales and keep track of stock levels!

Implementing a management platform, or investing in an EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale), provides visibility over all of the transactions you are processing. If you have oversight over sales volumes of scented candles, for example, you could add on an offer on from the comfort of your sofa.

Whether it’s sitting down to watch a festive film, heading out to watch a carol concert or catching up on your own Christmas shopping list, balancing your work and personal life is vital to ensure you make the most of the festive season. Our data shows for the 18 per cent of those who don’t enjoy Christmas, say it’s because they struggle to prioritise the business over family.

There’s no getting away from the fact that Christmas is a busy period for retailers. It’s impossible to avoid the most significant season of the year, but there is a way to strike a balance to survive the season, and not only that actually enjoy it!

By investing in technology, you eradicate multiple stress sources quickly. Tech can really support your entire business function and free up more of your time enabling you to enjoy your time with family and friends.

Raj Sond is general manager First Data.

Further reading on Christmas

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