We were told that Monday 3rd December 2012 was Mega Monday (or Cyber Monday as others call it). Apparently on this single day up to £10,000 per second was being spent online. There are always forecasts like this, and always on the first Monday of December. I’ve never seen a retrospective analysis to determine if it’s true or not, but what I do know is that once Cyber Monday (or mega Monday) has been and gone the focus of Christmas shoppers begins to move away from online and toward physical shop-based retailers…
Good news for shop-based retailers… Footfall is about to start increasing as shoppers switch from online to in-store for their Christmas purchases
In recent years we’ve seen the high street chains go into Christmas sale before Christmas – something unheard of about 5 years ago. We’ve also seen (in 2010 in particular) a number of orders placed online fell victim to bad weather conditions preventing deliveries from getting through. With these 2 factors in mind smart consumers are doing 2 things:
- Buying online earlier – to ensure their deliveries are with them in good time for Christmas.
- This will be front of mind in 2012 as we’ve already had a few flurries of snow across the vast majority of the South East and around Manchester, so metropolitan, high population density areas, where online shopping is favoured will be mindful of the risk of their purchases not being delivered in time.
- Holding off doing their Christmas shopping until much later, with the peak footfall to the shops usually the very last weekend / days before Christmas.
- With Christmas day falling on a Tuesday it means that the final weekend, the weekend of 22nd and 23rd, is likely to be HUGE (and also the weekend when people buy all their fresh food as well…)
So, whilst mega Monday might be a peak day, the online sales fall away after that, rather rapidly. That means that there are a whole load of consumers who have yet to do any of their Christmas shopping, and the vast majority of these will need to hit the high street.
To discount or not to discount, that is the question so many Independent retailers are asking me…
With many chains already going into sale mode many independent retailers are feeling a certain amount of pressure to follow suit. My view is that as you have not yet seen the vast majority of footfall (I would predict that happens on the weekends of 15th/16th and 22nd/23rd December) then it would be crazy to discount now. If you have great, desirable products, fairly priced, well merchandised and if you can offer a wonderful shopping experience (perhaps a free wrapping service, perhaps a buy now, collect later service) then you’ll not alienate the shoppers who want what you have got.
However, and for those independents who sell more “commodities” (easily compared products, branded items for example or commonly available items), then it’s a different story… if the your local competition is heavily discounted and you are holding out for full price you might be missing out on selling an item at all, even if the margin isn’t great.
So it’s a case of be aware of what’s going on, be mindful of what your customers will expect, make sure the experience you offer is “a cut above”, and you’ll hopefully make the right judgement about discounting, or not.
Prepare for the peak weekends – stock up, spruce up, get festive, bring in extra staff…
So, given these last 2 weekends before Christmas are likely to have the highest footfall (especially since few online retailers will be guaranteeing delivery by Christmas on orders placed after 15th due to the overload on couriers and postal services) you need to be ready to make the most of it. Here are a few top tips:
- Get as much of your seasonal stock out on the shop floor before you open as possible – you can’t sell what they can’t find and you don’t want sales staff away from the shop floor, stocking up, when you are busy.
- Make the windows look super inviting – make the display enticing, engaging and really draw them in – you can even have someone outside, inviting people in for a hot drink and mince pie to warm up while they browse – it won’t cost you much to offer but is a really welcome touch, especially in the bitterly cold weather!
- Make sure you’ve got lots of staff on hand – to assist customers, to sell, to wrap and (sad to say it) to make sure if the shop gets very busy you are not the victim of shoplifting.
- Think about what you can do to make the customer decide to buy from you rather than elsewhere – what are your key value-adds? Is it unique product? Locally produced / Made in UK / Handmade? Is it the service? Gift wrapping / Deliver to their home that evening / Hold for later collection / Extended refund policy or warranties?
- Make it fun – put the festive music on, have some mistletoe in the doorway, wear festive hats, dress up – if your shop looks like the most fun place to be on the high street, a haven of fun, warmth and festive joy, people will want to spend a little longer there, even if they are working against the clock to finish their gift shopping
So, lots of ideas and I am sure you have plenty more too. The key is to make the most of those 2 big weekends when footfall should be noticeably increased…. and to make it a very merry, Indie, Christmas!