How to prepare your retail or hospitality business for the holiday rush

The festive season is just around the corner. While some businesses owners are winding down and looking forward to a well-earned break, others, like those in retail or hospitality, are gearing up for the busiest time of the year. How can you ensure your business not only survives, but thrives, during the hustle and bustle of the holidays? Jannie Rossouw, Head Sanlam Business Market, provides some tips:

Embark on a marketing drive now. Your potential and existing customers need to know what they can expect from your business over the holiday period. They should know what your product or service offerings are, your extended opening hours, and what specials you will have on offer.

Make sure you have enough stock. This may sound obvious, but businesses often underestimate their required stock levels. Use last year’s sales as a starting point, and look at the growth of your business over the past year, to estimate what you will need. The last thing you want is to run out of essential products with customers trampling the pavement in front of your doors.

Sort out any staff leave issues. You will need all hands on deck over the busy period, so allow staff to take some time off before or after the year-end rush. As a contingency measure, make provision for casual staff – you could employ students looking for a holiday job, for instance.

Ensure your premises are ready. Look at your parking arrangements, and make sure customers visiting your premises have a pleasurable experience. For example, if you own an ice-cream shop at a busy beach resort, place umbrellas and chairs outside for people queuing to escape the sun. Or provide some form of amusement for children while their parents shop.

Plan to have promotions every day. Employ students to assist you with this. Do whatever is necessary to get your goods to your customers and your payment in your bank account. If you need to stay open 24/7, then do so. You can rest later when the holidaymakers go home.

Ensure your assets are adequately protected. Speak to your financial adviser to ensure you have enough cover in place to prevent any nasty surprises at the busiest time of your year, such as a fire or a key employee leaving. Especially short-term insurance, key person insurance and business interruption cover are important.

The holidays are not the time for housekeeping. You will be caught up in a flurry of activity, and will be focusing only on increasing sales over the period. Leave non-essential admin tasks, de-cluttering your office, relooking your business systems, and your annual financial review till after the rush is over, perhaps just before the tax year ends.

Plan for your post-holiday reflection and analysis. When the year-end bustle is over, you will want to engage in a thorough analysis of the season – what worked, what didn’t, what is the x-factor your business is missing? Plan to make brief notes throughout the season you can refer to later. Also prepare your staff – you will also be asking them for input on their experiences during the period.

Prepare for the post-season slump. You need to set enough cash aside to tide you over the quiet period. This may also be a great time to re-invent your business, but you will need to start thinking about this before the rush starts. See how the product or service you are offering can be used in a different way. Or add something to the mix that is counter-cyclical to your industry.

“The busy festive season is always a challenge for businesses. With a little preparation, however, your business can flourish. Following these tips should set you well on the road to a bumper holiday season,” says Rossouw.


This article is based on a press release submitted by Atmosphere Communications, PR agency to Sanlam Personal Finance.