The early bird…
Christmas – and the build up to it – is without doubt the busiest period of the year for the retail industry and certainly for independent product businesses – so if I could advise just one thing – plan ahead!
And this year more than ever it’s going to pay to be early – I’ll chat more about why that is and the end of this post.
June, July and August are the summer months so people are away or quite focused with their seasonal purchasing – this gives you some golden ‘time’ to plan for Christmas. So in an ideal world you would have refined your Christmas plans in July – taking advantage of what are usually quieter months for retail.
Then come September you’re ready for those organised customers who will turn their attention to festive purchases – you want your hero products ready for them.
Why else is it really important for you to start thinking about Christmas early? There’s lots of advantages to having your Christmas hero products picked out by July. Some gift guides have a long lead time so being prepared for those will be an advantage and also help you feel in control.
Big platforms like Etsy or Not On The High Street plan their Christmas campaigns in July, the latter had their product call for Christmas in July in 2020.
If you’ve done your Christmas planning in July you will be ready for an opportunities like this that come your way.
However – it’s now October! So to help with your planning I thought I’d talk through some of the ways to prepare and when it’s best to do it over the next 3 months.
October…things get serious
Bye bye Halloween…hello Christmas! Before you’ve packed away your Halloween costumes for another year – the Christmas promotions start to appear – everywhere!
By mid November onwards they are in full force, so much noise with all businesses starting their Christmas promotional messaging. And for product business owners – working out your promotions strategy needs to move to the top of your to do list right around October – so make sure that’s firmly in your plan.
Come December you will be tired, busy and probably a bit stressed so front-loading this work during October will feel like a weight lifted and you will feel in control, ready for the busiest time of the product business year.
Start by thinking of all the different Christmas related activity you might like to do during November and December. Consider what promotional messaging you’d like to focus on and why. Remember – promotional messaging is not the same as a sale or a discount (although may incorporate both!).
Your promotional messages are the main topic that you’re communicating to your customers at any one time. Write all your ideas down – once you start thinking through what you want to achieve for the Christmas period you’ll be flooded with festive promotional ideas.
My Christmas promotion inspiration list
Here’s my inspiration list to get you started:
– a launch of your Christmas products
– a gift guide; from a full published guide to an Instagram pin
– gift ideas that are perfect for secret santa
– gifts that are perfect for a stocking fillers
– free shipping offer
– free returns offer
– cut off dates for last orders in time for Christmas
– a gift with purchase offer
– upgrade to express shipping offer
– charity partner; a % of profits going to your chosen charity
– giveaways; a competition or a buy one get one free offer
– a collaborative offer – small businesses can work together and promote a joint offer
Time to map it out
Once you have your hit list of promotional messaging and know what you want to achieve by running that promotion – map out the activity. You want to avoid bombarding your customers in one week with multiple messages then have a quiet week message free.
Map out your content so it makes sense as it flows through the season – for example stocking fillers tend to be last minute purchases but secret santas are often purchased around the first week of December when people are getting ready for their Christmas parties – virtual or physical!
Map out what you want your promotional messages to be for each week – what is the main topic you want to communicate to your customers for that week. Factor in your other communications such as your email drop, your newsletter and your social media feeds – ensure they work together and power up your promotional messages throughout the festive period.
To discount or not to discount
Another task for later in October – if you want to run a discount or sale ahead of Christmas think through your plan and timing. Many businesses will plan a sale to fit around Black Friday or ‘Small Business Saturday’ for example.
It’s important to think about if you want to do the blanket type of discount – which is the biggest promotion you can do and is of course the one that drives the most sales. They work and really increase your sales – however remember that a 20% off blanket offer will likely cream off your best selling products. So it is really key to plan your stock levels around this kind of promotion – you do not want to run out of your best sellers the week leading up to Christmas because you sold out during the 20% off offer period.
You’ll also need to think about the same time next year – once you start increasing your sales figures through a blanket offer you need to continue to meet and increase those sales figures each December.
Ideally you want to be tackling any problem stock that you may have, you may have identified this stock for a Boxing Day sale – try offering a discount before Christmas but at a better margin than you will on Boxing Day or a ‘buy one get one free’ offer works well for this.
Be strategic – think ahead about want stock you’ll be trying to shift in your post Christmas sale.
Planning and mapping out is key to achieving a successful Christmas sales period. Once you have your promotional messaging plan and timings you’re halfway to having a strategy.
Then you have time to prepare – create some eye- catching relevant content – try using a package like Canva to create a stock pile of festive social media graphics with your promotional messages – having these ready to go each week will save time and will be key to getting your promotions noticed.
Write your December email and newsletter early – making sure the content complements the timings of you Christmas promotions. Refresh your website and social media feeds so that your Christmas messaging and imagery works with your ‘look and feel’.
Enjoy it! Despite being incredibly busy this is a very exciting time of year for product business owners, an opportunity to increase your customer base, promote your brand and increase your sales for the year! Hopefully this blog post has you humming jingle bells whilst you plan your killer Christmas promotions strategy.
It feels strange talking about physical selling events in these strange times – however there should be markets and pop-ups happening around the UK – just with various social distancing measures in place. These are key to so many independent product businesses so I wanted to share some top tips!
My top piece of advice?
It’s exciting; really fun events right in the middle of the bustle of the festive period, great for raising your profile but that does mean it’s easy to get carried away and forget these are ultimately selling events.
Make sure you are clear about how much you need to sell to make the event a success! Sounds obvious right? Well not always – these events won’t be the same as selling on your website or in your shop or to resellers – so you need to do your planning beforehand.
Selling means profit
You want to make sure you get the most out of your time and effort. The first thing to do is make a list of all the events you’ve signed up to or plan to sign up to and give each event a target. Identify how much money you would be happy to take away at the end of each event. Now – the question I’m often asked is – how do you decide that amount?
Everybody will have a different figure in mind, however to reach that figure you need to go through every single cost incurred and other considerations related to the effort required by you to do these events, such as your time.
For just one event the list is long; cost of the pitch, bespoke labelling, bespoke signage, time you’ve had to take out of the business or away from family in order to do the event. How much time and costs it’s taken to box up all of your stock, any logistical costs, if you have to stand outside in the cold for a few hours (these are important considerations!), if you’ve had to pay anyone to help with these events and of course the cost of the actual goods you are selling.
Once you have your list decide how much you want to make as profit from each event – be really clear – by using your list you can be sure about the amount you you’d like to make as profit as you will now know how much you need to make to break even.
Set a unit sales target
Now you have that number you can work back to get a unit sales target – for example if you want to clear £150 to cover £100 of profit and £50 of expenses and on average you make £10 profit per item you’re going to need to sell 15 items in order to hit your target, and if it’s a five hour event you need to sell 3 units an hour. Break it down so that you have an hourly amount you need to reach for each event. I have three other reasons for working out your sales target.
One – planning for next Christmas
Having a clear sales plan for Christmas events will enable you to identify which events were a success and which were not. So when you’re planning out your Christmas period for next year, you already know which events this year made a profit and if any didn’t. Having your sales target for each event will make deciding which events to do each year more straightforward and fruitful.
Two – how much stock to take
This process is essential for you to know how much stock to take to each event. If you don’t know how much you need to make and if you haven’t broken that amount down into unit sales you won’t know how much stock to take.
If you need to sell 15 items to hit your target and in turn cover your costs and efforts then you know to bring 20 items – you don’t want to sell out before the end of the event but also don’t want to bring loads of items home with you. Using a sales number will help you know how much stock to take.
Three – is the event feasible
Knowing how much stock you need to sell to make an event a success will help you identify if the event is feasible. For example, if you have to sell 500 items in order to hit your target – you will know if that’s feasible for you. You’ll know if you have that amount of stock available, if you can transport it and if the space at the event is big enough.
Another tip – many sellers create gift sets for selling events – you can bundle several lower priced items together and then sell them for a higher amount. This will increase the average amount each person spends and help hit your target.
So my key take-way for you – if you’re getting ready for Christmas events make sure you take the time to work out how much you want to make from each event, how much will make it worthwhile to you in your business and therefore how much do you need to sell to make that happen.
A COVID-19 Christmas and product businesses
I wanted to end this post with my thoughts and tips around Christmas during these challenging times. Despite how bleak the outlook can sometimes seem I truly believe there is a way to forge a positive and productive path – especially for small businesses.
Plan – B
Government advice and restrictions are constantly changing so having a plan-b for how you sell your products during the festive period is essential. For example, if you rely heavily on face-to-face selling, Christmas markets – make sure you’ve research all the online events and opportunities that there will be out there for your customers.
An extra special ‘early’ Christmas
This year many people will want to let their loved ones know how much they care – especially if they’re unable to see them around Christmas time. So all signs are pointing to customers being super organised and making their gift purchases early – particularly as they’ll need to be posted in time. Make sure your hero products are ready – now! And get on top of your delivery options.
Most of us will be at home for Christmas if the ‘rule of 6’ and local lockdowns continue – so people are going to want to create a cozy, special festive period in their own homes. Those businesses that sell home accessories should be pushing that messaging now and those who sell Christmas decorations make sure you’re telling your customers now how special they are. If you sell food or drink – think through your messaging for November – predications are that people will buy treats early – end up consuming them before Christmas and buy again.
Ask your customers
Start talking to your customers about Christmas plans – is it home for them, will they have ‘virtual’ work parties – what alternative activities are taking place for them as a way to feel festive. Understanding how your customers are feeling about Christmas and what their ideas and plans are will help you plan your messaging and meet their needs – which is key!
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