Gear up your small business for the festive season

26 November 2015

It’s that time of the year when people across South Africa start thinking about swapping business wear for beachwear or bush gear as they start getting their families prepared for that well- earned festive season break.  Coincidentally, many small business owners are also looking forward to the break, but for totally different reasons. For them, it is a time when annual sales enjoy a boost and provide a prosperous start for the upcoming year.

But, warns Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank, being successful over the festive period means having everything in place and ready for the boom-even though it may be a bit more subdued this year because of the downturn in the economy.

“To ensure that your business achieves what you want during the year-end festivities, you should make sure that everything is in place for your shoppers. Making a list of what to do is an obvious requirement when preparing for the festive period but attention should also be paid to making your shop an inviting and enticing place for visitors to browse around in.”

To achieve the best results possible, says Ms Nyembe, you should be:

  • Examining and planning for a changed cash flow.
    It is unfortunately true that a holiday sales boom is usually followed by a quiet beginning to a new year.  Examine your cash flow figures for the same period in 2014, estimate what you will make in 2015 and then ensure that you put aside enough money to carry you across the inevitable quiet trading period to come.

  • Checking your shelves.
    Make an assessment of what has sold well during the year and what hasn’t. Take the slow moving items off the shelves, discount them and place them where they can’t be missed as part of your ‘bumper year-end sale.’  Then check with your suppliers and boost stocks of the hot items that sell all year round.  Check what new items your suppliers have that may be attractive and order sufficient stock for the holiday period.

    Check on prices and see what volume discounts you can negotiate as many suppliers will have stock they wish to move before year-end.

  • Marketing aggressively.
    Promotions and special offers always attract customers. Use signage outside and inside your shop to draw potential customers’ attention to the fact that you are offering discounts, prize draws and even a gift wrapping and delivery service.

    Now is the time to use your customer database. Take the time to thank regular customers personally for their support and let them know about your special seasonal offers. Sweeten the deal by offering them a ‘loyalty’ discount.

    Make your website more appealing, display what you have on offer, make gift suggestions and offer special deliveries.

    Think about making purchases more appealing by ‘bundling’ products together. For example, offer a computer with a carry bag at a special price, and add in a flash drive to complete the package. Draw up gift vouchers for the store so that it is easier for your customers to make a purchase.

  • Improving your staff’s selling skills
    Making sure that you have enough staff to cope with the holiday influx is fine,  but, to be effective, means that they should be fully aware of what products you offer, their features and benefits as well as warranties available and, of course prices. The more your staff knows about what is on offer, the more effectively they will communicate with customers and the better sales will be.

  • Start planning for your January sale.
    Getting an early start in January can boost an otherwise quiet month and help counteract a drop in cash flow. Think about offering New Year’s Day specials with discounts that will attract loyal as well as new customers. It is also a great way to get rid of excess stock left over from the festive season rush.

    “The most important part of having a bumper festive season is making sure that you have planned for it and that your business is ready to cope with the festive rush. Getting people into your store doesn’t achieve anything if people have to queue for service or demand attention. Not having that special item you have advertised will also result in lost sales and potential loss of loyal and new customers,” says Ms Nyembe.

    “Taking time to plan, merchandise your store and be prepared for the rush-the effort will be worthwhile,” she says.

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