Six tips for SMEs to thrive this Xmas

For many, the holidays are a period to look forward to – family, gift giving and feasts - but also to dread – carparks, long lines and road rage. 

For small business, particularly those in the retail sector, this feeling is amplified. The opportunities are immense but the end-of-year shopping season is the busiest time in retail calendars. 

" One of the biggest pitfalls for retailers is thinking that last year will be good enough to drive this year’s results."

How can retailers best prepare or the added responsibilities and demand of the season? Below, we share, we share six pieces of expert advice from successful retailers on how they get the most out of this make-or-break time of year.

New Year, a new approach

Deanna Moylan is the global director of product for T2. After opening its first store in Fitzroy in 1996, T2 now has stores in the UK, USA and Singapore.

“One of the biggest pitfalls for retailers is thinking that last year will be good enough to drive this year’s results,” she says.

Moylan calls it a “looking-back mentality”.

Although it might be comforting, it’s important for SMEs to never trust that sales and customer behaviour will be the same year after year.

Consider merging online and offline worlds

According to Forrester Research, web-influenced sales accounted for 38 per cent of all retail sales in 2016.

To make the most of this omnichannel behaviour (that is, a customer’s interaction with your products both online and offline), ensure you showcase images of your goods on your website or via social media. Additionally, look to create ways customers can pick up what they want quicker and more easily.

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Think about customer expectations around flexible returns, shipping and delivery. What can you do in store to match the online shopping experience?

What if the recipient doesn’t like the gift? Can they exchange it? What if the gift is cumbersome to carry? Can you offer a pickup service or a drop off to their car or home address?

Empower your team

Like T2, Australian cosmetics brand Jurlique International knows the power of in-store teams.

“At Christmas, every operational element becomes a challenge,” Ann Donohue, General Manager Australia and New Zealand at Jurlique says.

“An underprepared team is probably the biggest hurdle.”

As much as it’s important to plan, don’t forget to train, train, train, Donohue says – particularly seasonal staff that may take longer to learn the ropes.

“If team members are confident in their plan, they can enjoy the time along with their customers,” Donohue says.

“If they feel equipped and empowered, any issue is dealt with quickly and confidently. A happy team equals happy customers.”

Stay true to your brand DNA

“It’s very easy for brands to get lost in the chaos of Christmas,” Donohue says. “They get carried away with the tactical and promotional element.”

“One of our strategies is to stay true to our brand DNA; we ensure that when consumers purchase a Christmas gift from Jurlique, it’s Jurlique first, Christmas second.”

Look after yourself

Holiday trading is hectic. To bring your best to work each day, it’s important for SMEs to ensure they consider work-life balance.

This means reaching out to friends and family to provide additional help – whether in the business or at home.

Start planning again in January

Once Christmas is over it is pays to start planning again for next year. Of course it makes sense to plan early. But how early?

“Plan straight after Christmas for the next Christmas,’ Moylan says. “Take the lessons you’ve learned, and look forward to where the market will go next year.”

Early planning is more than just carefully reviewing stock levels and ordering products you need accordingly.

Moylan believes it’s really crucial to have confidence and discipline in your plan, as well as monitor it weekly.

“That’s how you execute beautifully, and deliver an experience that’s different to other retailers,” she says.

Effective planning enables SMEs to ramp up and roll out impactful marketing strategies.

“Invest in activities like customer events, masterclasses and competitions,” Moylan says.

Gabrielle Mitchell is a bluenotes contributor

This story originally appeared on the ANZ Business Hub

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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