It has been a year of challenges for the retail sector - not least because of continuing uncertainty over Brexit and its effect on the economy.
As we approach Christmas, traditionally the retailers' busiest time of year, every business, large or small, should draw up an essential preparation list to reap the maximum benefits from the festive season. The importance of embracing the Christmas spirit in retail can never be over-emphasised.
Although it's inevitable that sales will increase over Christmas, as UK shoppers tend to spend big on presents and festive food, there are also things that a retailer can do to actively maximise the potential for profits. Surveys have shown that more than one-third of small and medium-sized enterprises rely solely on Christmas to boost their full year's trading results.
So, what can you do during the busy festive period to increase your chances of winning the battle against your rivals?
Getting into festive marketing is a must, to make your customers feel involved and spark some festive cheer - before and after they enter your shop. Make sure there are posters in your premises advertising the latest Christmas discounts.
To alert everyone to your Christmas deals, send out a mailing shot in the shape of a festive email, or advertise via social media. It's the cheapest way of telling your customers, and a professional-looking newsletter containing some fabulous offers is an easy way of attracting shoppers through your doors.
You could also consider advertising a complementary (or low-price) gift-wrapping service. If you sell items that are likely to be given as Christmas presents, such as fragrances, other toiletries, or chocolates, for example, advertise your gift-wrapping service. It could be the extra incentive your customers need to persuade them to buy from you, as we all lead busy lives and wrapping presents can become an unwanted chore for many people.
Open for longer hours in the run-up to Christmas. Many retailers do this throughout December to make themselves more accessible to the masses. Any shops with longer opening hours are almost certain to benefit during the pre-Christmas rush, when there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day for many people.
Make sure you advertise on social media, on your website and via email to make shoppers aware of your extended opening hours. Balance the benefits of opening longer hours with the costs of staff working overtime. You don't have to stay open all night, but even if you extend opening hours just by a couple of hours a day during busy periods, ensuring you advertise it effectively, this will benefit customers and your business.
Offer free gifts and special discounts to attract new and existing customers in the run-up. Shoppers will be on the lookout for a great Christmas deal, so organising and publicising a Christmas event, when you can offer special discounts or a free gift, will draw customers in.
Offer a free gift when someone spends more than a certain amount - this can increase the average spend, as people will often buy additional items to go over the threshold and receive their free gift. Have a Christmas special event, when all transactions receive a discount at the till.
Even if it lasts only for a couple of hours and the discount is 5%, it will draw the bargain hunters in, especially if you provide festive snacks, such as a mince pie and glass of bubbly too.
It's so important to bring out the Christmas decorations! Solely focus on displays around the shop to make your premises look as welcoming, sparkling and festive as possible. If you have room, put up a Christmas tree as a focal point and even have fake presents around it for effect. You only need to wrap up empty boxes for a great festive display.
Plan the placement of your products carefully, displaying those that may be gift ideas in prime positions around the store. Set aside whole shelves for gift displays and add tasteful Christmas decorations to draw the eye. You don't need a massive budget for simple touches like these. Props can be as simple as putting Santa hats on your mannequins, or colourful tinsel on the ends of shelves.
Place small “stocking filler” gift ideas on special displays near your till points, so that customers may pick up last-minute items while they wait to pay. You'll be surprised at how the small extras add up.
Of course, you need to draw the shoppers in to see your winter wonderland, so have well-decorated window displays to lure passers-by in to experience the Christmas cheer.
Although preparing your shop for Christmas can mean a little extra work, it's well worth it in the long term, as you will reap the rewards of festive spending and hopefully attract some new customers, who will continue to shop with you long after the festive period has ended.
In today's challenging economic climate, it pays to make the most of Christmas, ensuring your store's as welcoming and festive as possible. Make sure your premises are fitted with the best possible display equipment, so your displays outdo your competitors!
KAS Shopfittings supplies a wide variety of shop fittings such as counters, slatwall, card racks, shelving and more. Contact us for further information on our range of products, which are available for nationwide delivery.