Phil MeekinView Profile
So what does Christmas mean to you? A nightmare mixture of Christmas shopping, family gatherings, writing Christmas cards to people you never see? And of course eating and drinking to excess.
It’s here again, almost. How many Christmas shopping days left – really? It seems to come around quicker each year. Somebody once likened the passing years as you get older to sheets of toilet paper – strange how they seem to disappear more quickly, the nearer you approach the cardboard tube.
So what does Christmas mean to you? A nightmare mixture of Christmas shopping, family gatherings, writing Christmas cards to people you never see? And of course eating and drinking to excess. I actually like Christmas – and the concept of “peace to all men (& women!)” irrespective of their backgrounds or beliefs.
But Christmas means different things to different people. To some it has a huge religious meaning, to others a massive commercial significance. For many consumers, it’s a period of binge-shopping, often followed by a spell of wearing sackcloth and ashes when the credit card statements arrive in the New Year.
For most retailers, it’s the busiest time of the year – in some cases the level of Christmas takings can mean the difference between making a profit or loss for the year, even the difference between the survival or demise of a business. And the market continues to change. Retailing is all about knowing what makes your customers “tick”. In the past we have seen well-known High Street names disappear because they were too slow to change, slow to adapt to what their customers wanted. People at Microsoft have recently highlighted how much consumers use their devices – laptops, tablets, phones – to research before making a purchase[i]. Looking for the best spec, the best price.
But the High Street isn’t dead. Although buying online has seen phenomenal growth “click and collect” is surging in popularity[ii]. Switched-on retailers will maximise the potential this offers by ensuring their systems are slick and work well and making it a pleasurable experience for the customer. It is an opportunity to further cross-sell to a captive audience.
Retailers without a strong online presence can still prosper but they need to have something different to make them stand out from the crowd. It may be a niche or unique product, or an exceptional level of service.
Inevitably, some retailers will struggle for a variety of reasons. It may be that they are in premises where high overheads make it economically unviable to trade. Or perhaps their products are no longer sought after or maybe the town centre has shifted leaving them out in the cold. Managing such a business can be a nightmare.
If, after the festivities the future looks bleak, whether you are an individual wondering how you will cover the mortgage and credit card bills or a retailer doubtful that you will be able to pay the rent, take the first steps to make a fresh start to the New Year.