“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe”
– Abraham Lincoln
There’s an old saying in real estate – you make your money when you buy. The same is true of retail. A successful December trading period can depend as much on the actions you take before December 1 as the results you achieve during December. This not only applies to the product you buy in but the other actions you take to prepare for your busiest month of the year.
Despite this, many retailers seem to arrive at December almost by accident. The pressing demands of running a business can result in many decisions being made only at the point of no return when they must be done, rather than ahead of time when they can be dealt with more effectively. Often this can be too late to gain the full benefit that an earlier decision would have given.
Hopefully by now you’ve put much of your planning into place, but if not here’s a little checklist of things that you should cover now before time starts to work against you.
- Inventory levels. How much product will you need to operate effectively over this period?
- Deadlines. What is the cut-off date for reorders and special customer orders?
- Spares. What extras will you need of fast selling product so you don’t run out?
- Merchandising. How will the store look over the holiday season? What product will be placed where? When will you change it?
- Pricing. Do you need to reprice any product to reflect current replacement cost given the increase in gold and silver prices?
- Roster. Have you determined who will be working when? Do you have your best staff on the most important product counters and at your most profitable times?
- Training. Is there any additional sales training you need to put in place? Are your staff aware of any new items or items you plan to promote?
- Meetings. When will you have staff meetings? What is the agenda? How will you keep your staff focused during this month?
- Marketing Budget. How much will you spend on promotion? Where will this money be spent? What product and offers will you use to bring in customers?
- Client Targeting. Not all customers are equal. How will you be targeting your best customers to get them to spend this year? Will you be running any special promotions or evenings for them?
- Consumables. Have you ensured you have sufficient packaging, wrapping and other consumables to get you through this period?
- Repairs. If repairs are an important part of your business have you set a deadline for when you won’t promise completion before December 25th?
- Cash flow. This time of year can be a drag on bank balances. Have you planned when receipts will come in and when payments for December product will have to be made?
- Cleaning. This is important for both product and the store. Likewise, lightbox need to be fresh to show off items, signage and tickets need to look their best, decorations need to be in place and your music needs to reflect the season.
- Product. The best laid plans can still have problems. What contingency plans do you have if popular items aren’t delivered or customer orders get delayed?
- Covid. Do you have a plan in place should there be an outbreak? Would customers feel more comfortable knowing you are prepared for every eventuality?
- Illness. What if something happens to a staff member? What if you are unable to go into work yourself? Do you have a back-up plan to cover for this eventuality?
A successful December starts with successful preparation. The better you are organized the less stressful and more profitable your December trading period will be.