12 steps to help your business flourish this festive season

Starting up

7 December 2018

It’s often heralded as the most wonderful time of the year, but the stresses and strains of the Christmas rush can make even the jolliest of small business owners cry bah humbug.

But with a third of small businesses stating that seasonal trading accounts for 21% of their yearly revenue, it clearly pays for business owners to get into the spirit of the season so that their days ahead can be merry and bright.

Here, AXA’s Business Guardian Angel elves share twelve of their top tips to get your business in gear before Santa Claus comes to town, so you can spend less time stressing and more time focusing on having yourself a merry little Christmas.

Get ahead with staff holidays

We all dream of some time off with our friends and family when Old Saint Nick pays a visit but your business doesn’t come to a standstill just because it’s Christmas. However, that doesn’t mean you need to be a scrooge when it comes to divvying up holidays. Ask ahead for staff availability and set a deadline for holiday requests so you can ensure everything ticks over as it should while the festivities are in full swing. Why not consider offering some time off in quieter periods of the year in lieu of shifts worked over the Christmas period as an incentive?

Hire extra Santa’s Little Helpers  

The Christmas rush is likely to be the busiest time of your business year, so you may need to hire some extra seasonal staff to help manage the increase in demand. Although this means spending extra money on staff, this could potentially be made-up via extra sales catalysed by being able to provide higher quality, more attentive customer service. Get ahead of the game by advertising for staff in the autumn months and be sure to make your new starters feel part of the team by including them in staff nights out and other yuletide activities.

Combat lower sales with a dose of goodwill

At the opposite end of the spectrum, depending on your product or service offering, Christmas could be a slower sales period for some businesses, meaning you have to work that little bit harder to catch the attention of savvy shoppers searching for a deal. Shouting about what sets your business apart can really help breathe some Christmas sparkle into a slow month, so spend some extra time considering your marketing strategy and target market carefully.

Keep an eye on cash flow

Christmas is an ideal opportunity to wind down and take stock of the year gone by. However, having staff off on their holly jolly holidays can cause a serious slow down to the cash flow of your small business, which can result in important payments not being processed in time.

A simple way to avoid having to rely on pricey credit cards or bank overdrafts to see your business through the festive period is to forecast ahead, so you’re not caught out by unexpected events. Forecasting will give you a clearer understanding of when money is entering and leaving your business and will help inform vital spending decisions before and after the Christmas countdown.

If late-paying customers exacerbate cash flow issues, evaluate your payment terms well in advance of the big day and politely chase invoices owed to you as often as you can – especially as the closer you get to Rudolph’s arrival, the harder it can be to pinpoint people and get paid.

Remember, if you know money is going to be particularly stretched, try to put off any non-essential purchases and make sure that your tax affairs are all in order ahead of the tax return deadline at the end of January.

Don’t get caught out by extra Christmas costs

From staff bonuses to charitable donations, it’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the season, which can put an extra pinch on the budget of your business. There’s no better time to make a resolution a habit than New Year, so next year, why not start setting a small sum of money aside each month? This means that by the time Christmas 2019 comes around, you have a specific lump sum to lean on for festive fun and unexpected surprises.

Spread some Christmas cheer

Deck the halls with your best show-stopping decorations to attract customers into your shop and spread some extra festive cheer by using your social media channels to have a Christmas countdown promo and showcase your best products that could make perfect gifts. A quarter of British shoppers say a discount of 20-29% is enough to convince them to buy a product when they’re out Christmas shopping so why not provide that extra dose of Christmas magic and say thank you to your loyal customers by offering discounts at special store events. Just make sure there’s plenty of mince pies on offer!

Be flexible with employees

From wrapping presents to putting up the tree, we all have a lot on our plates to get done in time for Christmas. To help boost morale and keep their minds on tasks at hand, be flexible with employees by offering extended lunch breaks so that they can tick tasks off their festive to-do lists. Your little helpers are the lifeblood of your business, so ensuring that they feel valued and can remain focused on tasks at hand when it gets busy could see your business reaping the benefits.

Take time out to relax

Christmas time is all about bringing joy to the world, but balancing the responsibilities of running a business with the activities that come part and parcel with the festive season can be a little overwhelming. However, it’s important that you take some time off to relax. Whether you decide to rock around your Christmas tree or air-grab to Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ with your loved ones, taking time out can not only help top up your festive spirit, but can help clear your head so you can return to work to help others to have a wonderful Christmas time.

Ensure your website can handle the yuletide demand

With one in every five pounds spent with UK retailers now done so online, it’s a good idea to make sure that your website can handle the increased traffic of bargain-savvy shoppers. And with this increase in demand comes the responsibility of ensuring your stockrooms are suitably filled. It’ll turn you into a green-with-envy Grinch if your low stock levels result in customers choosing another retailer when they can’t get their mitts on this season’s must-haves.

Get on top of deliveries

Unfortunately, you don’t have the delivery power of Santa’s sleigh on your side but you can get ahead of the Christmas rush by altering your delivery times ahead of the big day. Consider how you’ll handle the extra customer demand and if you’ll extend the returns period so that those unlucky customers who are given a turkey of a present for Christmas can return gifts for something a little more tasteful.

Take stock of your stock

Whether you work from home on your computer or have a stockroom filled with goods, it pays to protect your valuables this yuletide – especially as thefts were up by 22% to more than 15,000 over last year’s holiday period. The only welcome intruder you want visiting you this Christmas is Old Saint Nick, so make sure that all your valuables are locked away out of sight when they’re not in use and that all security alarms and locks work as they should. And with AXA contents insurance, your stock cover automatically increases by 30%* for free if Christmas is one of your peak times of the year.

Double check your insurance

Santa has been making his lists and checking them twice and it may be a good idea for you to follow suit by double checking if the insurance you currently have in place will protect your business throughout Christmas trading. From public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance to employers’ liability and contents insurance, ensuring your business is fully protected against the worst happening could give you peace of mind and more time stepping into Christmas.

So here it is, merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun, by looking to the future you can better keep prepare your small business before the festive shopping rush has even begun. So, whether you’re dreaming of a white Christmas or simply looking forward to getting together with your friends and family as one, AXA hopes you have yourselves a merry little Christmas, each and every one.

*30% extra stock cover applies when you select contents cover.

Get your business protection needs all wrapped up with AXA Business Insurance

Don’t let the unexpected put your festive plans on ho-ho-hold, tailor the cover you need with AXA Business Insurance. So even if the worst happens, you can rest easy knowing you’re protected and focus on making your Christmas a cracker.