Staff, stock and customer spending will be the issues facing businesses this year – how will your business stay ahead of the competition?
It’s not too early to think about Christmas. As I write that, I’m confident that someone somewhere is reading that sentence and thinking, “Andrea is leaving it late.”
Many businesses find that Christmas is the big event of their year. Having a good Christmas is an essential part of the company’s value and if a business does not maximise its potential, it may find itself unable to make the investments required to grow in the following year.
There are three big issues facing the SME owner at this time: staff, stock and customer spending. Your business strategy for Christmas should ensure that you have these bases covered.
There is a pressing and urgent staff shortage affecting businesses across sectors all over the world. This has been caused by a number of factors, and in the UK, Brexit hasn’t helped. The queues at airports and fields of unharvested crops speak of foreign workers not being allowed to enter the country to pick up the seasonal slack.
Finding the right people for your business, particularly seasonal workers, is a mighty challenge: first you have to find them, then you have to pay them and with competition being fierce, you also have to keep them.
Flexibility here is key, particularly post-pandemic. The idea that people will gladly rush back into the office is a fiction. Some like being in the workplace, some don’t but what everyone wants is choice. Where you can offer flexibility around your workplace, you should.
What can you do? Act early to find the right people. Consider working with an agency to fill places and make sure you have a package that will keep workers loyal to you. Look at your processes and redesign for flexibility around staffing levels. What can be achieved remotely?
Supply chain issues are still causing headaches and the prices of raw materials are increasing.
Getting the stock on the shelves may be more of a challenge this year than most: it will take longer to arrive and be more expensive. There may be delays on shifting stock from its arrival point to the store. Global supply chain issues are still impacting businesses and Brexit isn’t helping.
What can you do? Ensure that you have the funding to buy early and in volume tol give you leverage on price. If you can drive a hard bargain, you might be able to get a deal that offsets the cost of borrowing.
All of this falls down, however, if customers don’t want to spend – and there are good reasons why they may not. The cost of living crisis may have some people choosing between heating their homes and food. They certainly won’t be engaged in any discretionary spending. Others, even if more well-off, may feel that now is not the time for overt displays of wealth.
What can you do? Ruthlessly cutting costs is one option, but if you encourage customers to be motivated by price alone, you’ll lose business to a competitor undercutting you. Explore ways to add value to the customer through experience, whether that’s a gift for large purchases, a bespoke product or refurbished premises.
Christmas will be here sooner than you think and the sooner you start preparing for it, the better. One thing you can do is block out half a day to sit down with your team to discuss your strategy: what are you going to put in place to make this Christmas season really work for your business? What do you want to achieve? How will you know you’re on the right track, and what will it take to get there?
Success doesn’t happen by accident: you need to plan for it and budget for the investments you need to make to see your plan through to success.