Christmas is coming

Christmas is coming
“Referring to our previous sales figures is a good indication of what is likely to be popular the following Christmas, but we also need to be aware of the changing trends. .” Steve Pym, Black By Design

As Inside Retail types this article it’s the middle of the year, which means two things – first, it’s chucking it down, and second our readers will inevitably be thinking of Christmas especially as we’re approaching the last major trade shows before the season of goodwill. Ideally this is one of the best times of year for independents, with high foot-fall and looser-than-usual consumer budgets, but it can backfire spectacularly. Over-ordering can be a nightmare; your correspondent was in a brewery’s shop this Easter and they were offering a good price on Christmas Ale.

It’s not just comestibles – any purpose-designed gift product can sit on the shelves unloved for a good while. A couple of retailers offered us their tips:

  • Watch for trends. Steve Pym of Black By Design said: “Last year prosecco glasses were popular, but this year we predict gin glasses will be having a moment due to the rise in popularity of that spirit! Whisky glasses and decanters always do well, as do corkscrews, ice buckets and cocktail shakers.” Before you think we’re obsessed with drinks, he also mentioned the permanent stuff like cushions and throws, which always do well.

  • Consider how last year went: “We always look at the previous year’s data to give us a guide for Christmas - the quantities sold of a certain range, which individual products sold out, which brands performed well and what was discounted after Christmas,” said Pym. Don’t take it for granted, though – remember his comment about changing tastes and fashion.

  • If you’re independent, be niche or be thorough. Pym again: “We aim to introduce our customers to brands that are not easily available on the British high street in order to offer alternative, contemporary homeware options,” he said. “We specialise mainly in Danish brands, such as Normann Copenhagen and Menu, which provide that distinctively popular Scandinavian design. Of the brands that we stock which are available on the high street, we tend to stock a larger range to give customers a wider choice.” Put it another way: the independents can’t compete with the chains on price, so it’s probably best not to try.

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If you’re on the web as well, it’s important to keep your site up to date with all of your offers and décor so that it looks like a good approximation of your bricks and mortar store. If you’re in the online world then you actually get two bites of the Christmas cherry because of the Black Friday promotion coming to the UK. Chris Boaz, Head of Marketing at PCA Predict, offered the following tips on not getting tripped up by the online festivities:

1. Personalise your platforms\ “Customers have come to expect a tailored online shopping experience, and if you’re site doesn’t provide this, your competitors will”

2. Implement address validation\ “Ensuring a positive user experience is all about making the online transaction as easy as possible for the customer. Optimising address validation at the checkout processes is a quick and effective way to make sure that customers complete their purchases.”

3. Introduce abandonment surveys\ “You’ve personalised your platforms and have implemented address validation software to ease the checkout process, and yet customers are still leaving mid-checkout. Find out why customers didn’t complete their purchases by setting up an abandonment survey. Surveys are emailed out to customers who left their purchase mid-transaction, providing you with invaluable data to identify where you’re going wrong.”

Back to our brewery and we can confirm it wasn’t the Billericay Brewery. We asked proprietor Trevor Jeffrey about managing stock levels at Yuletide and it seemed pretty straightforward to him: “We always produce a lot of our regular beers at Christmas and always sell loads of bottles of them, particularly in gift packs,” he said. “At the moment we only produce one special Christmas ale - Black Christmas, which we brew in limited quantities. Bottles of this have flown off the shelves the last 2 Decembers with no danger of stock being left over in the New Year.” \ If only it were always that easy!