Whether you're an online retailer or a high street store, you're likely to be all too aware that Christmas is the time for making the bulk of your sales.
As Christmas approaches, consumers seem to become a little fuzzy-headed in their hunt for the perfect gift, searching locally and online for the best deal. Understandably you want to please your customers and so you're probably feeling the pressure as you wait to see if your last 4-5 months' planning and buying in stock is going to bring positive results.
Fleximize caught up with Kirit Kumar, the owner of Cuthberts Toys, a successful chain of toy stores in Hertfordshire, for tips on how retailers can get the best out of December's shopping mayhem. However, for this toy expert, the Christmas retail period isn't a laughing matter – it's a critical part of his business calendar.
Kirit kindly gave us his low down on how he maximizes on his sales at Christmas. He discovered early in his time as a toy shop owner that Christmas is his golden season; he now makes a 70% turnover in the run-up to the festive period in stores and online. Yet he sticks to simple tactics to make the most of Christmas both on the internet and in all 4 of his shops.
1. Tricks to in-store success
Kirit's 3 simple but effective tactics for maximizing in-store sales at Christmas include making sure the merchandise is presented in an exciting and shopper-friendly way. Focusing on creating amazing window displays is key to attracting passing trade. Don't give people a reason to just walk by; be inviting, warm and fun!
Months before Christmas, Kirit gets stuck into research to ensure he buys the right products in the first place. In the toy trade there's a huge array of options, so getting the most desirable toys into his shops is the difference between a happy Christmas or a flop.
2. Don’t discount too early
Peak-time train tickets are charged at a premium to maximize on rush-hour commuters. So, as a shop owner, why discount your own prices when you're getting the most captive audience you'll have all year round?
Think of Christmas like your own peak season, and make the most of being able to sell the majority of your stock at full price throughout the few weeks leading up to Christmas.
When January comes around, that's the time to clear out the slow-sellers and discounted lines, so you can start a fresh restock for the trends of the next 12 months. The new year is very important to Kirit as, increasingly, people receive gift cards and cash for Christmas, and they spend it in January. So Cuthberts is able to extend the full-price Christmas items alongside discounted products in the January sales.
3. Plan early or sacrifice sales
Like many small retailers, Kirit starts planning for the Christmas period at least 6-8 months before. In many industries, especially the toy industry, lead times for delivery can be up to 3 or 4 months from the date of purchase. Therefore, if there’s a trend for the forthcoming Christmas, Kirit needs to nail it months in advance.
His advice on making these make-or-break decisions is this: be sure you have a good relationship with your suppliers and follow their guidance, and listen to your customers – they’ll be the ones bringing in sales. Predicting the next toy trend is tough, so nurturing your general industry relationships is the best way to keep in the know. Also, never be afraid to try new things – new trends need to start somewhere...!
4. Use Christmas to up customer loyalty
Christmas is a great time to build up a customer loyalty list for sending exclusive in-store or online offers post-yule. Kirit's business has a number of loyalty schemes on certain brands and he often sees customers, who were new at Christmas, return throughout the year to take advantage of the offers.
Building a list can be as simple as asking for an email address at the till, and sending out a monthly e-newsletter with the latest in-store offers.
5. Overloading staff leads to bad sales
Kirit also explains that retailers need to make sure you have enough shop staff to provide a great customer experience. The worst thing you can see is a customer unable to find items, so make sure you employ extra staff ahead of Christmas to service the extra demand.
From mid-November Kirit recruits temporary staff, then in December he hires an additional 50% to cover both online and in-store uplift. In the grand scheme of things, says Kirit, a few extra members of staff will pay for themselves through extra Christmas sales.
Hopefully, these wise words from a business owner who's re-established the traditional toy shop as a high street favourite will help you end your year with a bang too!
We've also got a great interview with the founder of Prezzybox, the online store selling funky, novelty gifts, and turning over £5.5 million. It's definitely worth checking out if you're in online retail.