The holiday season is fast approaching, you’re busy running around sourcing product, refining your lines, checking your best sellers and preparing for special promotions.

The key to a successful holiday season is to prepare well, with a good solid plan everyone in your business knows what you need to do and when it needs doing. It also highlights if things are moving off plan and allows you to quickly react and adjust.

Planning correctly can be a daunting task, with that in mind we have produced a 3 part Christmas selling plan that you can adapt and follow for yourself!

When is Christmas?

It seems like a simple question; however, for a retailer Christmas doesn’t start in December. Most high street shops start ramping up their Christmas products after Halloween (31st October), this is a sensible start for most online stores too.

Once shoppers see Christmas products and hear fatboy1984!the Christmas jingles in physical stores it inspires/reminds them to get organised for Christmas shopping.

You may not see a huge increase in Christmas product sales from the 1st of November but your buyers will start to associate your online presence with Christmas – increasing the chance of them returning to shop with you closer to Christmas.

So, we have established that you need to begin adding Christmas products to your online outlets from the start of November; this means you need to start getting prepared ASAP!

If you haven’t already got Christmas stock in you have a little over 2 weeks to get organised…

Look at the numbers…

It is important to sit down and look at your numbers and work out what you can handle over Christmas. Too many sales can potentially cripple your business if you cannot cope with the demand, every cancelled order or returned product costs you money and takes even more precious time.

Take the time to look at your numbers now – you will be simply too busy closer to Christmas.

Important metrics to look at:

  • How much stock can you physically store?
    • Research additional storage options such as lockups, storage centres or empty units with short leases
  • What capital do you have to buy stock with?
    • Speak to your Bank and get a quote for a loan, it’s always better to know what it would cost to get extra capital.
    • Alternatively reach out to capital finance companies such as Kabbage (US) or iwoca (UK)
  • How many staff you will need to cope with demand?
    • Plan for taking on Christmas temps, ask your staff if they know anyone who would be interested, speak to your local temping agency and factor what it would cost to get temp workers in.
  • What are your bestsellers?
    • Look at your existing sales history and identify the trends. Your best sellers are the products that you need to have in plentiful stock.
  • Try to predict which products will be fashionable this Christmas
    • Look at the news and adverts; see what is tipped to be popular. For example this year’s big sellers will undoubtedly be the new iPhone range, Xbox One and PS4. You don’t have to sell the hot products but think about stocking accessories such as cases and cables.

Procedures and plans

It seems like extra work but it is important to outline each procedure you and your staff follow, make a quick check list of the steps needed to complete each task. Write out your own daily checklist so you know what you need to get done at the start of each day.

These process manuals become invaluable if someone is off sick or you do take on temporary staff, instead of losing a morning training new staff everyone in your company can help the new staff get up to speed. Ensure you print the checklists and Christmas plan and keep it somewhere that is accessible to all.

Prepare your product lines

Hopefully you now know what your best selling lines are; so you need to ensure you can get that stock in time for Christmas. Next you need to take a look at what Christmas/season specific lines are available to you.

Grab a coffee and go through the latest supplier catalogues, re-familiarise yourself with your supplier websites and have a chat with your supplier reps.

Also, as an ongoing task, keep an eye on your closest competitors; see what they are pushing for the holiday season.

Prepare with your suppliers

Speak to your suppliers, get the name of your rep and have a chat.

Things you need to consider when speaking with your suppliers:

  • What special offers are they going to be pushing?
  • How will they cope with the busy season – will their delivery time increase?
  • When is there last dispatch date for Christmas?
  • Ask them what is selling well for them; it stands to reason if it sells well for the supplier it will sell well for you!

Prepare with your Couriers

Contact your couriers, if you have an account manager plan to speak to them, if not research the website. See if they have any price breaks for increased shipping, as you increase your sales you may be able to lower your shipping costs – delivering you more profit!

Also check:

  • If they are adding additional pickups to cope with demand?
  • Check what the most cost effective delivery service is for you.
  • If you don’t already offer one. Look at adding an expedited shipping service to all your products. People are happy to pay more for guaranteed fast delivery.
  • Look into prepaid delivery for returns – if you do pay for return delivery; shout about it on your store and product listings.
  • Ensure your store and listings reflect any changes to your shipping. It is important to let customers know where and when their product will be delivered. If you can guarantee a certain delivery if order before a set time shout about it – it might just be the thing that makes you stand out from your competitors!

Ensure your stock is in order

Proper stock handling can be the difference between a bountiful Christmas and a harsh winter. It’s not just about ensuring you have enough stock (although that is critical); it is also about preparing for the peak sales.

Points to consider:

      • Tidy your stock area
        • You won’t have time closer to Christmas, so ensure your stock area is clean and tidy, with the increased activity and potential new staff you don’t want to be working in a hazardous environment.
      • Organise your stock area
        • Make sure your stock area is well laid out, bring your most popular products closer to your pick and pack station. Keep seasonal products together. Take the time to label your stock areas. It makes it much easier to pick a product from “blue bin 23” rather than “Somewhere out the back by the door.”
      • Ensure you have the stock for promotions
        • For any mail campaigns you are planning it is important to ensure you have the stock to cope; there is no point sending 1 thousand emails offering 50% off a product when you only have 1 product to sell – it’s a waste of effort.
      • Don’t be tempted to overcrowd your stock area
        • It is easy to think just cram the room to the ceiling with boxes, however if it becomes difficult to find product and dispatch products it will slow down your pickers and packers, mistakes will be made and it will cost you money. It would be better to run with less stock or arrange for additional storage.
      • Ensure you have enough shipping supplies
        • Make sure you have enough boxes, brown tape and bubble wrap. Buy additional paper and toner for the printer – hopefully you will be printing a lot more invoices!

Create a promotional calendar

Create a promotional calendar outlining:

      • The offer/product you are promoting
        • E.g. Santa iPhone Case
      • When you are sending it
        • E.g. Tuesday 29th October 3pm GMT
      • The aim of the campaign
        • E.g. To drive sales of the Santa iPhone case
      • The call to action
        • E.g. Link to the product page
      • Who it is going to
        • E.g. Customers that have purchased an iPhone product
      • How you are sending the message
        • E.g. Email, Twitter & Facebook post

If you create a digital calendar you can share it with your staff and everyone can get reminders on their computers & smart phones.

It is also useful to add the marketing activity requirements to the calendar; for example if you were sending the above campaign you need to set time aside to write the campaign, get the customer data and test the campaign.

Sample October Campaign Plan:

17th October

Website changes: Update your homepage with a Christmas theme; add some holly to your logo for a simple update. If you have a central hero graphic update it for a Christmas themed image. Create Christmas specific categories such as; Gifts for Him, Gifts for Her, Stocking fillers etc.

Shout about any shipping promotions/ benefits. Do you offer gift wrapping? Ensure you tell your customers.

21st October

S.E.O Changes: Introduce some Christmas text to your home page to help boost any season searches. Add any keywords for trending products – e.g. Now stocking iPhone 5s & iPhone 5c Cases, cables and accessories.

28th October

Mail Campaign: Tell your customers what’s new for Christmas, shout about any early bird specials, promote gift wrapping and expedited shipping. Promote your new “Christmas Store” sending customers to your Christmas specific categories.

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