How is it October already? For many small businesses and makers the festive period, and the run up to it, can be both magical and stressful.
For me, a working mum running my jewellery and accessories business Oak + Whistle as a side hustle, preparation is key once autumn sets in. Last year I was lucky to have my busiest Christmas yet for the shop but it also translated into many late nights and early starts. To be honest, by the time Christmas rolled around I was exhausted, probably close to burn out. Whilst I loved making every item in the knowledge that it would be opened by someone on Christmas Day, I was so tired I took very little pleasure in gift buying for my own loved ones.
So, this year I have drawn up a Schedule for Festive Success. Month by month from October and beyond December, because the hustle doesn’t go home with Santa.
This is the time of year I’m happiest to start my prep, other than applying to Christmas fairs as and when applications open through the year. This month I will:
Order packaging supplies All the preparation in the world is not going to help if you run out of things to send your precious goodies in. Christmas is probably the time when first impressions count the most. You may be sending some items directly to the recipient and your packaging will be the very first interaction they have with your brand.
Prepare for fairs and markets Festive fairs may happen as early as November so October is a great time to stock up on products, practice stall layout and prepare marketing materials.
Source and practice seasonal packaging and gift wrapping Practice wrapping? Yes! You don’t want to be spending twice as long packaging an order than you spent making it. Now is the time to streamline your shipping station. It’s also a good idea to take this opportunity to photograph your packaging, especially if you’re offering a gift wrapping option.
Take seasonal photos As a rule I don’t share festive photos on any channels until November but I do prepare ahead.
Draw up a product list for the festive season This is a biggie for me this year. Marketplaces like Etsy encourage sellers to have a high number of products available in their shops but actually I am taking Christmas as a chance to streamline my inventory. I think we all have items that are either quite time consuming or we don’t enjoy making or, worst case scenario, both. This year I’m purposefully retiring some designs – it might make no business sense but it will preserve my sanity.
Start batch making best sellers After I’ve finalised my product list I’ll start batch making best sellers, so I have plenty of stock at least in the initial weeks.
Start updating titles and tags Whilst I think October is too soon for full on festive marketing, I don’t think there is a downside to tweaking titles and tags.
Once November rolls around it’s full on prep time:
Start introducing seasonal look For Etsy and Facebook I would do as much as possible at the same time, to ensure all the listings are consistent. For Instagram I plan to phase it in so my grid doesn’t look like Santa’s grotto overnight. A twinkle of lights here, a pine cone there …
Consider shipping upgrades Shipping upgrades are quite popular in the festive period, especially with last minute shoppers. This year I might also consider a tracked and signed option for orders above a certain amount, because at this busy time of year packages can and will go astray.
Make buyers aware of order cut off dates Last year was the first time I set cut off dates. This year I’m doing it again but I’m also keeping in mind that saying, for example, that all orders must be in by 14 December does not mean I stop working on 14 December.
Final order of materials Some materials and items take a little longer to reach me. Jewellery that is cast or plated, for example, can take up to two weeks.
Make buyers aware of limited edition items In line with the above, by mid November I plan to make buyers aware of anything that I think might sell out before I can restock in time for Christmas.
Offer discounts to loyal customers Christmas is a time for giving, so a little reward for loyal customers and/or supporters (ie. Instagram followers) can be very welcome.
Offer gift vouchers Some customers prefer to let the recipient choose. Others leave it so late that a digital voucher can be a life saver.
Make all channels consistent and on brand Time to take a holistic look across all sites and channels, make sure it’s all on point. A consistent brand also inspires confidence in customers, especially important when they’re entrusting us with gifts for their loved ones.
Introduce free gift wrapping It’s pretty safe to assume that orders placed from mid November onwards are probably Christmas gifts. Offering free gift wrapping for orders over a certain amount may be an alluring incentive.
Run a small sale on payday week For those very organised peeps buying presents early and for peeps who just want to treat themselves.
Essentially this is mainly dependent on how much caffeine can be consumed:
Send newsletters In previous years when I’ve done fairs I never collected contact details for newsletters (because I don’t do newsletters). But we’ve all shopped at fairs, right? We peruse, we like, but sometimes we file it under ‘one for later’ rather than buy on the spot. Sending out a friendly newsletter once your fairs are done could be a sweet little reminder for some shoppers.
Continue to make buyers aware of order cut off dates Like a drill sergeant. Write it down everywhere: shop announcement, individual listing descriptions, About section, Instagram profile … also consider one of those ‘abandoned cart’ promotions that Etsy and other marketplaces run with a message like “hey, I noticed you liked this item, just wanted to let you know time is running out to make it yours before Christmas”.
Keep an eye on stock I make some items from scratch so stock taking is pretty essential in case materials are lower than I first thought.
Prepare festive period social media posts The cut-off date has passed. The last order has been shipped out. The shop is closed until the new year. Do I want to spend Christmas taking and editing photos or do I want to have a couple prepared so I can still wish my online community a happy holiday?
Send new year wishes and thanks to customers and supporters I’ve never done this before but this year I would love to draw up some stats and highlights on the journey of Oak + Whistle in 2019, none of which would be possible without lovely customers and supporters.
So, you think the hustle is over. Last January was probably as busy, if not more, than Christmas. Some shoppers have Christmas money and vouchers to spend, others like to treat themselves.
Run special offers and sales January sales, am I right?
De-Christmas shop I’m almost too embarrassed to admit that some of my listings still had Christmas in the titles and tags in August. The shame. Set aside a half hour in January to do a thorough shop cleanse.
Plan the year ahead Wake up, kick ass, repeat.
How are you prepping for Christmas? I'd love to hear your thoughts and tips so we can get through it together!
Thank you for reading! Laura xx
photo credit: Artem Sapegin at Unsplash.com