If we compared your financial year to a flight across the country, it would be fair to say that the seatbelt light is on and we’ve begun our descent.
If during the last few months you’ve left the autopilot turned on, it’s now time to retake the controls. Your most important job is ahead of you, and some last-minute checks and adjustments will be needed to avoid a bumpy landing, or worse, a major departure from the course.
We’re of course referring to your December sales period, the busiest and most stressful time of the year for retailers. It provides the best returns for your business, but can also represent a major missed opportunity if it isn’t fully taken advantage of.
As would a pilot, you should have a checklist in place to ensure everything goes smoothly during the approach and landing.
1. Marketing. Is your budget established, and are your promotions in place? Hopefully, you’ve already planned out your marketing to avoid last-minute distractions. What is your main message going to be this holiday season? What will make customers spend with you and not your competition? How do you plan to get this message across? If you’re utilizing your database, is it clean?
2. Staffing. Do you have the rosters planned? Is staff aware of when they will be required to work? Have you got back-up plans if people are ill? Being well-organized in this area sends a message to staff that you are prepared in all areas of the business.
3. Communication. Does your staff know what is expected of them? Are they aware of the marketing program? Trading in December is like the rest of the year on steroids: If you’re four times as busy, then you need four times as much communication with your staff. Even if you don’t meet daily during the rest of the year, try to instill this during December.
4. Inventory. Have you got the product you need? Are there spares of the best-selling items? Are you able to source good sellers again quickly if they sell? Do you know when the final cut-off dates are for ordering from vendors? If you are manufacturing for clients, when is the final date for orders?
5. Supplies. Are there adequate supplies of consumables such as wrapping paper, ribbons, computer rolls and boxes to see you through until the new year?
6. Financial. What will your cash flow look like leading into this period? Will you need to carry the cost of extra product ahead of the busy rush? If so, do you need to look at extending your overdraft, at least temporarily? How did your cash flow pan out this time last year?
A smooth approach starts with the nose up and the wheels down. Make sure your arrival into the holiday season is a smooth glide and not a crash landing.
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 edition of INSTORE.
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