Christmas present

The festive season brings with it increased anticipation, for consumers and businesses alike. Whether this is an opportunity for increased sales or the excitement of receiving that perfect present, everyone is looking forward to what the next month will bring.

From a trading perspective, as online orders continue to increase and customer expectations become more demanding, small businesses need to be ready to claim their share of the market and brace themselves for the last-minute rush. Being smart at identifying new trading opportunities is important to make the most of this season and be ready to be competitive by introducing deals – but only those that you can afford and are able to fulfil.

That's why it is so important to take a moment now to ensure your business is ready in the event of a potential avalanche of demand, which could happen at any time in the run up to the big day, even Christmas Eve.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled some practical tips which can be followed in order to successfully “prepare for peak”:

#1 Take note of Christmas trading hours

Christmas is notoriously a make-or-break period for many businesses, from large to small, which makes planning and preparation all the more essential to ensuring good festive fortune. While much of your groundwork should already be in place, there are steps you can take to fend off the cold chill of winter even now. If you’re a high-street retailer, why not make shopping easier for your customers by offering extended opening hours, including weeknights to capture those looking to shop on their way home from work.

#2 Choose your packaging wisely

The opportunity for increased sales is nigh, however it’s equally important once you have those sales, that deliveries are given a similar priority. Use a new, sturdy box that’s a few inches larger than your gift on all sides to allow for plenty of cushioning. If reusing a box, make sure it’s still strong enough to stand up to shipping, for example ensure no torn flaps, no holes or corner dents, no water-damage and be sure to remove all old shipping labels. This is important, as leaving an old label on the box could cause confusion and result in your package being delayed.

#3 Give your supply chain a health check

Take the time to review your supply chain and ask yourself if there are links that could be strengthened. Christmas is a time when the true effectiveness of a supply chain is revealed, but also the last time you want to discover an issue! Firstly, assess operations on your side to see whether they could be optimised, such as with automatic label printing. Next, check in with your delivery provider to gain insight into how they can further assist your business. Lastly, for extra valuable shipments, or those which absolutely must arrive by a certain date, consider exploring additional tracking options.

#4 Remember the last shipping day

Make sure you know when the last shipping day is. It is likely to vary depending on the provider and will also depend on the service you use. The majority of logistics companies are seasoned professionals when it comes to Christmas deliveries so it is always worth getting their opinion on how best to navigate festive supply and demand. Don’t leave transportation until the last minute. For example, if shipping via FedEx, the last advised shipping date for delivery before Christmas will depend on the origin and destination of a customer’s shipment.

#5 Provide exceptional customer service

While customer service should be front of mind all year round, the run up to Christmas is a crucial period to get it right, every time. Both new and existing customers will expect a faultless experience from start to finish – you can really set yourself apart from your competitors. From special offers to personalised communications, let your customers know they are valued on an individual basis, even during this peak period.

We hope our tips will make for smooth sailing during what is always a busy time for businesses and their customers. As you look ahead to the New Year, take the time to review your business’ performance over the last 12 months, to determine your successes and examine the areas where you can improve. Perhaps 2016 is the year to identify new markets where your products can be successful. Don’t forget, there’s a world of opportunity out there, and you need to ask yourself “if not now, then when?”

By Ed Clarke, Managing Director, UK Ground Operations, FedEx Express & FedEx UK