Festive season survival guide for SMEs

By Janice Roberts

shoppingtrolleyincreasesmallWith the festive season already in full swing, it is imperative that both seasonal and non-seasonal businesses alike take heed of the holiday’s pressures and ensure business continuity in order to retain customers and steady profit margins for the new year.

Byron Jeacocks, Regional General Manager at Business Partners Limited, says that if business owners don’t plan accordingly for this busy time of year, there may be serious consequences to deal with in the following year.

“Whether a business is seasonal in nature or not, business owners need to take into account that their everyday work schedules and habits are going to be disrupted in some way or another,” Jeacocks explains.

According to the Economics of Christmas report by Stats SA – which compares consumers spending habits over the holiday season – while there are certain behavioural trends of consumers over this period that favour certain types of businesses over others, both seasonal and non-seasonal businesses can thrive or suffer during the season.

“When comparing stats, the report shows that a book store tends to flourish during the festive season, whereas a hardware store will often experience slow business. Similarly, hotels tend to be quieter over this period, while camp sites thrive,” he points out.

“Taking this into account, the festive season can either make or break a business when entering into the new year,” Jeacocks says. “However, if business owners plan in advance and are aware of the potentially challenges they could face, they can be creative and use the season to their advantage.”

In order to assist businesses, Jeacocks provides four key tips for business owners to plan their festive season strategy effectively:

1. Plan for less or more income over the period: Both over-trading and under-trading can put a business under pressure.

For example, offering discounts can be beneficial to businesses in terms of generating interest, increasing foot traffic and moving products but business owners need to be aware that these ‘retail discount holidays’ can result in stock shortages for late December or January, and should take these specials into consideration when planning their buying strategies. With this in mind, businesses should also take into consideration that their suppliers may close over the festive season, so they may need to place their orders earlier than usual.

Apart from ensuring enough stock to support the business through the festive season, seasonal business owners should ensure they have enough staff to assist with the expected higher demand.

While non-seasonal businesses should ensure debts have been paid before the season begins and manage their budgets to cover a period of potentially slower business over December and January.

2. Communicate effectively with customers and generate excitement: As businesses are competing for customers with different needs, they should either communicate any seasonal specials they are offering or communicate the dates that the business will be closed, as well as advertise the reopening of the business and perhaps offer reopening specials.

3. Look after staff: A business’ staff can be one of its biggest assets. When it comes to the festive season, it is imperative for business owners to make their staff feel valued by thanking them for their hard work throughout the year and perhaps throw a party or offer a bonus. If the business is seasonal and busier over the festive season, business owners should consider offering their staff shift work if possible, hiring temps to help carry the added workload, as well as offer to buy meals and supply transport if they are working later hours. Seasonal businesses should also increase security during this time.

4. Plan for downtime: Both seasonal and non-seasonal businesses experience downtime within the year and it is crucial for businesses to plan for this and make the most of it. Seasonal businesses can use extra profits made during the “high” season to pay back debts and reinvest in the business going into the new year, whereas non-seasonal business owners should use the downtime over the festive season to review their business plan, implement new strategies, catch up with admin, and manage any repairs or renovations which may need to take place.

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