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Avoid losing your small business sales momentum after the Christmas season

For most small businesses, Christmas is the biggest sales season of the year, but it can be even bigger still if you take advantage of the post-Christmas period as well. Here’s our guide to keeping your marketing and sales momentum well into the New Year.

Every year, many of us watch with bemusement as the less organised members of our family go on midnight runs to ever-more overcrowded shopping centres on Christmas Eve. This pre-Christmas panic comes at least in part from the generally accepted idea that the 25th of December is the Official Day of Presents. To have no gifts to offer on the day would be somehow sacrilegious. But it hasn’t always been this way.

There are competing theories on how Boxing Day got its name, but most of the credible ones, some dating back centuries (and all of them from the northern hemisphere), have one thing in common: they all revolve around the giving of gifts, charity or provisions. The box literally refers to a container in which there were goodies.

These days, certainly in Australia, we often talk about Boxing Day as a day of rest and recovery – a day to “let the turkey digest”... But in reality, we’re a bit more like our European predecessors than we might think. Boxing Day might not be an ‘official’ day of giving, but it’s absolutely an unofficial day of buying.

Even for those of us who don’t indulge in the now-ubiquitous Boxing Day sales, there’s the task of taking back presents that don’t quite fit, don’t quite suit us or which we, frankly, don’t really like. If we don’t do it on the 26th, we generally do it shortly after.

This means, for retailers, the weeks following Christmas are no time for rest. And that can be a large challenge for small businesses, up to 67% of which won’t have prepared for the Christmas rush, according to research done by Xero. That’s two thirds of small business owners who are either really good at rolling with the peak period punches or are risking being totally knackered by the time Father Christmas has come and gone.

So how do small business owners, who work so hard to make the pre-Christmas period a raging success, keep up the momentum – or at least make sure nothing goes seriously wrong – as shoppers get their second wind? Here are a few ideas:

Be ready for an influx of enquiries and interest

Because you’re a small business, some kind-hearted customers will understand if you take a well-earned rest on Boxing Day after a busy Christmas period. Most, though, will only be thinking about the product they need to ask you about, get instructions on or return. They’re the ones who’ll be beating down your (digital) door.

Anticipating this is important. A few steps you can take in advance and when the time comes are:

  • To make sure you’ve clearly communicated your returns policies and made it easy to find on your site, order confirmation emails, social media, etc. Don’t forget the Australian Consumer law provides numerous protections that will affect your policy. The ACCC has some handy information on the subject, including a recommended refunds and returns policy statement, just in case you haven’t drafted one of your own.
  • Even if you’re mostly shut down for the post-Christmas period, you should consider having someone from your business online and checking customer service channels as regularly as possible.
  • If you’ve decided you’re definitely having a break, and giving anyone else you employ some time off as well, make sure you’ve given your customers plenty of advance warning. Also make sure customers who do turn up to your shop or website when you’re not there are greeted with a message that tells them exactly what’s happening and when they can expect you back.

Consider another campaign straight away

As Christmas comes to an end, there’s a good chance you’ll just have come to the end of a big sale or promotion period too – possibly your biggest of the year. The temptation is to take a deep breath and stop for a moment. But, as we mentioned earlier, buyers are often looking for a bargain straight after Christmas. Others might be putting their feet up on Boxing Day itself, but getting the old “new year, new me” feeling as the 1st of January comes around.

In short: there’s enormous potential to benefit from a follow-up promotion period after Christmas and the beginning of the New Year.

But you don’t have to lower your prices and expect customers to come to you. One of the benefits of a successfully executed Christmas campaign will be the new collection of email subscribers and social media followers you’ve accumulated. Because they’ve signed-up in the last month, you can be confident their interest in you and your products is really high – so take advantage of it. Tell them about your amazing post-Christmas offers.

Even if you don’t feel you have the energy (or the stock) to run another sale, send an email thanking them for their custom and giving a hint at what might be coming in the future. You might even consider sending them a unique discount code just to maintain the love.

Plan… by the pool

But what if all of the above sounds like we don’t really appreciate how hard you and your employees have worked. What if you come to the 24th of December and you’re absolutely exhausted? What if you’re closing your business for the holidays, and that’s final?

We appreciate it – we promise. But we have one more, very small (but important) suggestion. While you’re taking a break, find a little bit of time to get a head start on your new year business planning. You could schedule some of your marketing activity for the year. You could do some competitor and new product or service research and planning. You could get your friends and family to come over for a shop, warehouse or home office working bee and help you re-organise after the Christmas explosion. Make the post-Christmas period a quiet time, but still use it to your advantage.

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