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This is apparently the busiest weekend for Christmas shopping – is your business ready?


Brace yourselves, the crowds are coming this Saturday and Sunday.

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for most online and offline retailers, but delivery startup Sendle has managed to narrow down the two days which retailers are going to see the most traffic (either foot or keyboard).

The dates to prepare for are this Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 December.

“November and December are the busiest months of the year for retail with each week leading up to the last Saturday before Christmas busier than the last," said James Chin Moody, CEO and co-founder of Sendle.

"Almost one in three Australians do their shopping on the last pre-Christmas Saturday, and with Christmas falling on a Monday this year, we anticipate peak days for business this year to the weekend of 16-17 December."

Christmas ups and downs

Large events in the calendar year have a marked effect on small business cash flow – even events not as closely related to spending with small businesses, such as the Melbourne Cup, can lead to cash flow fluctuations.

However, small business owners have less to fear than in recent years, for the simple reason that their cash flow is more stable than it has been. Xero's Small Business Insights shows that 56.6% of businesses were cash flow positive in September 2017. This is an increase of 2.9% from the previous month and an increase of 2.8% from the previous year.

More retailers specifically have also been in the black compared to small businesses. At Christmas 2016, 61.1% of retailers were cash flow positive compared to 54.6% of small businesses.

But while more businesses are posting stable, positive cash flow, it is a continuing pain point for many small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Staying in the black during the red and white season

Fluctuating cash flow can happen year-round, but if your focus is remaining in the black this Christmas season and into 2018, managing director of Xero Australia Trent Innes says it comes down to three factors: data, staff and discounts.

Firstly, he advises small businesses to use their data.

"Many retailers collect a lot of data in their day-to-day operations but don’t fully use it," Innes says. "Look back at previous years’ operations to see what sold well (and what didn’t), your stock and hiring levels, and profit margins across the business, in order to make more informed business decisions."

Knowing the full cost of hiring staff is also important.

"Hiring Christmas casuals can be significantly more complicated than just employing hired hands. With more staff comes significantly more admin. Make sure you consider the full costs of hiring staff, including penalty rates and additional payroll admin to ensure your business can cope."

And lastly, beware post-Christmas discounts.

"Unsold stock often leads to heavy discounting following Christmas. Boxing Day sales can seem like a great idea to clear stock but it’s not always a wise move. Make sure any discounting is based on a sound pricing strategy and doesn’t trade profit margins for a quick buck."

Thriving online

Moody says there are a number of things online retailers in particular can do to prepare for the barrage of customers completing their Christmas shopping online.

"[Retailers should] have a holiday specific shipping and returns policy ready," Moody advises. "Shipping times and returns policies are critical in the November to January period. 70% of customers look at return policies before they make a purchase during the Christmas rush, up from a normal 10% during the rest of the year, usually because they are buying gifts for others."

Also when offering delivery during Christmas, Moody says you should know your courier cut-off dates for Christmas delivery.

"Cut-off dates vary between carriers and some stop taking new orders as early as a week out from Christmas due to high demand. Advertise "last order" dates on your website to help your customers avoid disappointment. For those selling internationally, factor in time for weather-related delays in the EU & US – it could be snowing!"

Christmas is a great opportunity for increased sales, new customers and brand awareness. By employing the right strategies and safeguards you can ensure your business is not only cash flow positive, but that it thrives this Christmas sales season.

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Picture: Shutterstock

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