Oh No, Its Christmas Again

Its September, and Christmas is coming.

Like many current retailers Christmas is our busiest time of the year. Orders double, then triple, then go through the roof. It is a very hectic time of year. It is always better to plan ahead. Undoubtedly you’ll concentrate in what to stock, and what to stock. Plan best how to spend that budget on getting in the perfect holiday best sellers. All too often it’s easy to overlook the non stock essentials.

First your cart. It needs to be present, all security patches applied, and all improvements and alterations you need setup. By the end of September you need to freeze all development. You should not consider any change to your own computer systems. The last thing you need is a failure on your busiest time of year.

Then staff. If you are going to need extra employees for processing orders you need to be recruiting soon. It takes time to train workers, and time is what you should have little of at the holiday rush. So start now and get they up to rate for when you will need them. Like many retailers you will also limit and even prohibit planned holidays over this busy period. In addition, you should have a contingency plan for those unplanned absences. When it is all hands to the deck to find all the day’s orders out, the last thing you need is your hangover devastation from last nights party.

What could be forgotten is packing materials. There is not much point in getting countless orders when you have got no boxes to put them in. Or packing tape to seal the boxes. Further as the quantity of orders are going to be a good deal greater than your typical volumes you will need more stuff. What is the lead time for resupply? How much can you store? If the orders exceed expectations can you bundle them?

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Further there is stationary. Have you got sufficient spare toner? Do you have got reams of paper? You are hopefully going to eat a good deal more stationary than you normally do. Moreover, you want to consider lead times. Do not get caught out like we’d been one year after I ran from particular Royal Mail thermal labels. My post really wants such a label, but the Royal Mail needs 5 days to deliver replacements. Imagine sitting there with innumerable picked and packed orders, not one of which might be sent.

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Finally, there is customer support. As the amount of requests go up, the amount of inquiries and issues will inevitably also go up. Don’t forget to ramp up your customer support staff in line. It’s imperative that you don’t let your standards slip at this busy time of year.

All the above is the barest minimum that you wish to cover your holiday selling. There is however much more.

You’ll have to know what the last posting date is for every area to which you send. You’ll have to know when to switch to a faster posting service to get those last few days extra organization. Above all you need to test out everything from your customer’s perspective. And their opinion can be very different from the conventional time of year. Indeed your customers could differ. The massive majority of your customers are most likely to be brand new, as opposed to your normal target customers. They will instead be relations and friends of your standard target customers and buying the gifts for your intended clients.

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The simple fact you would like to believe about is that over the holiday period the overriding requirement is that the gift arrives in time. That it is not delayed in the holiday post. Really so important is the speedy delivery, many customers do not care WHAT is delivered, given a fantastic gift arrives. Now I am not suggesting mispacking, or ignoring a client’s order, but should you have run from A, phone/e-mail the customer and suggest B. If B is a suitable or even better alternative to A then you have got a happy customer, who does not have to wait, and does not need to appear again to get a new supplier of A. Whilst we strive to not run out of stock, it will happen, and we are amazed by how many orders we could save by this simple approach, AND get thanked, though we have messed up.

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Another very simple tactic we always apply is the range of the postal service. As Christmas day approaches, the amount of post from the system increases, and therefore do postal delays. The minute post starts getting slower, then the quantity of consumer queries increases. The natural”where is my package” questions. So you either hire extra staff to address this expansion OR you spend somewhat more on post and select a faster service. Does this work out cheaper, it provides better client services.

So plan ahead, and have a profitable Christmas.

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