The ways small businesses make Christmas happen

Customer matters

9 December 2016

From recommending presents to making house calls, where would we be without small businesses at Christmas?

Big retailers might have the multimillion-pound tear-jerking festive adverts, but it's small businesses that really make Christmas happen.

From the basic duties that serve communities so well to the quiet contributions people rarely see, there’d be a little less Yuletide magic without small businesses.

Here are some of the ways they make Christmas happen for us every year.

Sleigh-ing deliveries

Online shopping isn’t just changing how we shop at Christmas – it’s changing the way the presents are delivered, too. This year, thousands of self-employed couriers will be delivering presents to keep up with demand. Eat your heart out, elves.

Powering presents

Small shops sell all the essentials for Christmas, from the Sellotape and wrapping paper that make gifts gorgeous to those AA batteries that bring gadgets to life. They often sell the little extras that make festive moments special too, like stuffing and cranberry sauce, saving locals from slogging into town or back to the supermarket.

Community spirit

Forget the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future – it’s the small businesses around the country that really help change things for the better. Stats from our small business survey showed that one-third of small businesses raise funds for local charities, with 64% of businesses in affluent areas donating directly. It's not just all about the cash either – we found that in less affluent areas, they donate their time instead.

Reaching out

It’s estimated that as many as 81,000 small shops provide lifelines services for older people and other residents who can’t reach out-of-town shopping centres and supermarkets. Without their valuable services, hundreds of thousands of people wouldn’t be able to access their Christmas essentials.

House-call heroics

When the weather outside is frightful, your heating is so delightful. But when that flame just won’t grow, these tradesmen make it go, make it go, make it go. That’s right, those repairmen who are often on call to repair your boiler have saved many a Christmas from domestic emergencies, and we don’t doubt they’ll do it again this year.

With just a few little tweaks to stock and store layout, small neighbourhood shops can also make the most of this time of year. With people popping in on their way to (and from) work and social occasions, it's important to make sure they can find exactly what they need.

Here are a few tips for getting your small shop Christmas-rush ready:

Package your bestsellers

Most of your customers will be in a hurry, so make it as easy as possible for them to find and buy what they're looking for. Your early morning customers might be a little bit delicate if it's the morning after a work Christmas party or dinner with friends, and they'll be looking for hangover cures. Put together some "morning after" survival kits (chewing gum, painkillers, bottled water) that they can grab en route to the office.

Display your Christmas essentials

We're not talking about tinsel and baubles (although you should display these too if you do sell them). We mean the little essentials that people often forget until the last minute – batteries, spare bulbs for fairy lights, napkins, wrapping paper and tape. People often forget to buy important extra ingredients like cranberry sauce and stuffing mix when they're doing their Christmas food shop, so pop them on your display too. This will save people from running back to the supermarket or into town.

Extend your opening hours

The big retailers often stay open later during the run-up to Christmas, and many supermarkets now stay open 24 hours a day. People will be shopping later, and realising they've forgotten to pick something up once they get home. Although 24-hour opening is a little excessive, it's worth staying open a little later into the night to compete (just late enough to catch those late-night shoppers). Remember to post your updated opening hours on the door of your shop – and on social media – so that your customers are aware.

Keep an eye on Christmas trends

From must-have toys to quirky tree decorations, different items are popular every festive season. If you sell Christmas cards or decorations keep an eye on the latest trends and update your stock accordingly. Your customers will be impressed if they can pick up fashionable bits and pieces instead of standard ones, and it's likely that they'll tell their friends. Try not to over order, though – these fads are likely to be out of favour next year.

Then you’ll be ready to relax and enjoy the day itself!

This year, we want to say thank you to small businesses for everything they do to make Christmas happen. If you’d like to say thank you to your favourite local business this year, tell us all about it on Twitter @AXABizTeam and we’ll share the best!