As many of us flocked to the beach to enjoy the sunshine this July, around 160 elves, Santas and Mrs Santas from around the world travelled to Copenhagen with a very different holiday in mind.
Since 1957, the Danish capital has hosted the annual Santa Clause Congress. But boat trips, parades and fashion shows decorate what is, in fact, a crucial trade event for networking and showcasing products before the run-up to Christmas.
Many businesses prepare early as they bid to capitalise on the holiday spending habits of modern shoppers, almost half of whom have already started buying for this year’s Yuletide.
UK online clothes retailer Oxcloth organises festive stock in August, while Carluccio’s restaurant held its Christmas press day in July to get artisan cuisine on magazine pages and dinner tables come December.
But smaller, more flexible businesses can leave things a little later, so with two months still to go, there remains plenty of time for SMEs to get in shape for a very merry Christmas. Below are tips you can action now to avoid some common pitfalls as the countdown kicks in.
Get the basics right
Failing to get stock levels correct is a sure way to hamstring the finest marketing campaigns; eBay researchfinds that 79% of shoppers will go elsewhere if a product they want is back ordered or out of stock.
Notwithstanding last-minute consumer trends, risk can be offset by forecasting of product lines, from first order through to production and delivery. Attention should fall on overseas shipping which may impact heavily on lead times. Data-crunch peak sales from the previous year to plan stock and stay on top of that all-important cash flow.
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without temporary staff, but help can become a hindrance without careful strategy. Turn to technology for solutions that sit well with the digitally-adjusted workforce of today.
Core HR functions can be deployed through smartphones, via applications that do the donkey-work around pay-check information, benefits enrolment, time-off requests, sick leave and roster details, all at the touch of a button.
A good atmosphere is key, for managing director at Love Energy Savings, Phil Foster.
“Strong relationships are essential for every business. [They] can be difficult to achieve if some staff are only working for a business for a couple of months, but it can result in a substandard level of service. All it requires is a little bit of effort on the part of long-term employees and managers.
“Your overall goal is the same – to deliver an exceptional service to customers, so you should all be pulling in the same direction”.
Cash flow is critical
But the buck stops at cash flow which 27% of SME owners consider among the biggest challenges to growing a business.
It’s no surprise when you think that one in three payments to small businesses are late, meaning owners lose a day each month chasing what they’re owed. As a result, UK small businesses are missing a staggering £26bn each year.
The stakes go up as Christmas approaches, when staff holidays, extra wage burdens and fixed costs bear down on a budget already at full stretch. Many business owners turn to credit cards or costly bank overdrafts which can cause more problems down the line.
Esme makes finance easy
Fortunately, there’s a safer way to avoid a cash flow crisis this Christmas, and get the confidence you need to deal with any problems that crop up.
Esme offers flexible and hassle-free business loans, allowing you to get the extra cash you require to see your business through the festive period both quickly and easily.
Our application process takes just 10 minutes. Plus, our flexible payment option means if you want to pay your loan off ahead of schedule you can, with no questions asked and at no extra cost.
To make sure you’re ready for the Christmas rush, head to Esme Loans today.
By Veronika Lovett, co-founder and marketing director at Esme Loans
Originally posted on NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards website