We’re into the final stretch of 2020, and what a year it has been. The Coronavirus Pandemic that swept the world has left a trail of financial destruction in its wake, and now businesses are trying to pick up the pieces.
With Christmas on its way, retailers across the UK are gearing up for the Christmas rush as shoppers look to capitalise on the re-opening of so-called ‘non-essential’ stores. In recognition of this year’s tough trading conditions, the government have even announced a relaxation of trading rules, permitting shops to stay open for 24 hours a day in the run-up to Christmas. According to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, extended shopping hours will make shopping “more pleasant and safer” than might otherwise be the case.
Longer opening hours are one thing, but retailers desperately need a break after months of diminished sales figures and the collapse of some much beloved high street brands. It might seem like you need a miracle to help your business recover from COVID, but here are some things you can do right away to sell more this Christmas.
1. Get involved in local campaigns
The shop local message has long been championed across British towns, but it’s arguably more important now than ever. Independent firms potentially have even more to lose than struggling chain stores, since they don’t not have such an established online profile or even a network of better performing sister stores to fall back on.
By getting involved with a local initiative, your business could benefit from extra exposure to consumers, whilst helping to support fellow independents in the process. It’s often worth checking to see if your local Chamber of Commerce or Civic Society are running any campaigns, and there are plenty of high street advocacy groups dotted around social media and the web too.
2. Offer pre-Christmas discounts
Black Friday is over, Cyber Monday too – but shoppers are still looking for a bargain. By offering discounts and incentives in the run up to Christmas, you could attract money-conscious shoppers who are looking for the very best deals.
It’s important to remember that 2020 has been difficult for everybody, and consumers might not be in a position to spend as much as usual. That being said, Christmas isn’t cancelled and people will still be purchasing all the usual presents and trimmings whilst looking for the best rates wherever they can.
Even if your margins don’t stretch to an across-the-board discount package, flash sales or even deal of the day style reductions could help you to reel in the punters.
3. Offer a gift wrap service
It might not seem like much, but wrapping gifts can help to separate your store from the competition. Gift wrapping injects a little personalisation into the Christmas shopping process and can really help to improve the customer experience.
It’s an added extra that’s easy to implement and needn’t even be expensive. Just try to be a little more efficient than Rowan Atkinson’s Love Actually character!
4. Provide consistent and efficient customer service
Every retailer starts with the best of intentions when it comes to Christmas rush customer service, but in the depths of the busiest days it can be a lot harder to give your full attention to everyone in the store.
So many rides on customer service, particularly since physical retailers must compete with the ever-expanding online world. What sets the in-store experience apart is great treatment and attention to detail, so make it your priority to provide a pleasant transactional experience to each customer.
If you are to provide consistently excellent customer service, you’ll need to make sure that your sales process is efficient from beginning to end – which is why it’s so important to have an effective payment solution in place. For most retail stores, the best place to start could very well be a contactless-enabled card machine from UTP Group Merchant Services. It will make it quick and easy to serve customers, letting them get on with their day whilst helping your staff to keep the queues moving.
5. Create a cut-off date for final purchases
Now it might sound a little crazy to start limiting customer purchases, but there is some very clear reasoning behind this suggestion. We are not suggesting that you should close your doors earlier than normal, but it does make sense to have a clear cut off date for any postal or online orders. This will help to manage expectations and get slower moving customers to make their purchases earlier.
Whilst talking about slower moving customers, you might be able to use them to balance your custom throughout December. By using a sliding scale of discounts, early birds stand to get some real bargains whilst those that are doing last minute shopping (and there will inevitably be some) will top up your margins as you approach Christmas day.
6. Keep your most popular products in stock
Every shop has its loss leaders and money makers but failing to keep your best-selling products in stock could seriously harm your financial performance over the festive period.
It could scarcely be more important to keep your most popular products in stock, since these not only form the backbone of your takings but also act as a main attraction. Customers might come in for the product that you’re known for, but once they’re through the doors you’ve opened up a world of possibility in terms of other purchases. Keep your inventory up together, it just makes sense!
7. Bundle items together
Maybe you have already got checkout offers and point of sale displays, but it is worth considering bundling if you really want to upsell this Christmas.
If you have ever seen a supermarket offering a recipe card and all the necessary ingredients in a single display, you have already seen this in action. Customers like things to be easy and if they can buy complementary products together, they will.
For food and drink stores this might mean stationing your cheese, crackers, and chutney together, whilst retailers in the jewellery game might offer a discount on charms for bracelets when bought at the same time. Just think about good gifting combinations and you’ll be halfway there already!
8. Do not forget New Year!
Finally, remember that life will go on after Christmas. It’s easy to get tunnel vision during busy retail periods, but the Christmas rush is closely followed by the Boxing Day and New Year sales. Make sure that you have a solid plan in place for these calendar stalwarts, and let your customers know about it too.
The solution to most retail problems is preparation, and with these tips, you could be better prepared than ever before!