With the big day fast approaching, many of your customers will be feeling a sense of panic alongside their festive cheer as they realise they’re way behind on their Christmas shopping. But if you’re a business that thrives at Christmas, how do you make sure you’re ready for that last-minute rush?
Our Barclaycard spend data shows some clear spikes in December. Toy shops receive almost 20% of their annual sales in the month, as do confectionary stores.
Cosmetics stores, book retailers and department stores also see significant trading in December, receiving around 15% of their annual sales in the month.
Categories that are strong in December
Figures based on Barclaycard spend data
Not everyone does well though. Barclaycard spend data shows that people clearly have other things on their mind than travel at Christmas, while the taxman struggles for seasonal joy too. And not much silver crosses the palms of fortune tellers in December either, although that’s hardly likely to come as a surprise to them.
Categories that are weak in December
Figures based on Barclaycard spend data
Customers making a mad dash to join the scramble in the shops or racing to beat the last online delivery windows can create some very specific challenges for retailers to meet.
Adam Gore, MD at findmeagift.co.uk, says that one of the most important things is contingency planning. “Always have a ‘what if’,” he says.But development hasn’t stopped. James McDonald, Barclaycard’s Head of Strategic Initiatives and Innovation, says the big story now is mobile payment solutions.
Five key considerations
As those last few days of trading approach, we’ve pulled out five key areas it’s worth double-checking and, if necessary, tightening up on.
1. Prepare for the peaks
Do you know when your most hectic days will be? Adam expects late peaks for his business to be December 14 – a Monday, with people returning to their desks after the weekend – and December 18, the last Friday before Christmas. For the high street he says December 21-24 will be particularly busy as it becomes much more difficult to get online deliveries to arrive in time.
But whenever the peaks come, make sure you can cope. In the run-up to Christmas, Findmeagift.co.uk goes from a 9-5, five-day a week operation to a 24-7 one, while the regular 48 full-time employees are supplemented by another 150 temporary ones. Making sure you have enough staff available, at the right times, is vital.
2. Is your customer service up to scratch?
Christmas shopping can be stressful for anyone, so it’s important that your customers get as smooth a ride as possible. “Think about how many emails you’ll have to respond to, and how many calls you’ll get, then make sure your customer service department is fully prepared with well-trained staff, ” says Adam.
3. Watch out for fraud
Be vigilant – fraudsters can try to take advantage of the hectic period, and Adam says attempted fraud goes up “massively” for his company in December. “If it’s a high value order for next-day delivery, and it comes in just before the cut-off point, it’s suspicious,” he says. “They know you have to get the order out in 10 minutes and they rely on the fact you’re too busy to check properly.”
4. Be smart with stock
While stock requirements can be tricky to predict accurately, Adam suggests identifying your best sellers and most profitable items and ensuring these are always available – overbuying if necessary. “If you’re going to take a risk anywhere with stock, take it here.”
5. Communication is key
This is true across the business but, at Christmas, it’s particularly important to keep your logistics providers prepared for what’s coming. “We give our courier companies forecasts but then we refresh them regularly to keep them up-to-date with expectations,” Adam says. And another important rule – don’t deceive the customers. “Having a true reflection of stock is absolutely crucial,” he says.