June 25, 2021
By: Peter Gregory
25th June: it’s the exact half-way point between last Christmas and next Christmas!
We all know that we need to act early to prepare for the Christmas selling window … but what does ‘acting early’ actually look like? What can fashion businesses do now to squeeze every last drop of value out of the festive period?
In this guide, we’ll show you some of the work clothing businesses can do ahead of the hectic Christmas season. We’ll show you how an early investment in systems, supplies, sales and marketing can set you up for a fantastic end to 2021!
The ‘back end’ of any growing business is where the real foundations for success are laid down. Your warehouse, your courier service and website all make a difference. If you’re already thinking that it might be time to upgrade your systems, try to do it this summer.
New business systems always take time to figure out. Working patterns need to adjust, kinks need to be worked out and everything needs to integrate smoothly. Don’t try to fiddle with your procedures in October — it’s too close to Christmas. Do it now instead!
It can feel like a bit of a Catch-22 when dealing with retailers and fashion buyers. You both know that you need to agree deals early, but it’s hard to get a meeting when Christmas feels so far away.
The fact is, whenever your lead-in time is squeezed, your ability to deliver is jeopardised. It’s absolutely vital to get firm orders from business customers as soon as you can. If you can, send samples and pricing lists up-front. The buyer should have ample time to ‘get the ball rolling’ on your order before you have even met. Set clear deadlines and — if you can — offer some sort of early booking incentive.
Now is the very best time to housekeep your existing reserves of stock. You might think having boxes of ‘ready-to-sell’ stock is the same as having cash in the bank, but that’s an expensive mistake to make! The truth is that very few products are truly ‘timeless’. Over time, all clothing starts to lose its appeal, and becomes progressively harder to sell.
If you’re stuck with stale stock, the best thing you can do is sell it, even if it’s at a lower profit margin than you were hoping for. If you don’t stay on top of leftover stock from past seasons, it will start to take up vital shelf space in your business. Your only options will be to rent more space, hold a ‘fire sale’ or destroy old stock.
Inventory management is critical in the build-up to Christmas this year. If you have designs from 2019 or 2020 still sitting on the shelf, get them sold as soon as you can. You might have to shave a little off your profit margins, but you’ll be glad of the cash injection … especially as we head into 2022.
The reality is that we don’t know what a post-COVID world looks like. We don’t know how many of us will be commuting to work, how many will be working from home, even what a ‘night out’ will look like. This is all going to have a knock-on effect on fashion trends. The way we see it, the clothing industry stands at a watershed moment. The winners will be the ones with the funds to invest in new stock, and the physical space to hold it, in the months ahead.
It doesn’t matter how busy you are … the marketing beast needs constant feeding! If you already know that you’re going to be run off your feet in November and December, then write out your social media posts now. Set posts to appear automatically at set dates and times, with tools like Business Suite (Facebook and Instagram). You’ll save time, keep the business looking fresh and give yourself the space you need to execute a killer Christmas selling strategy. Just remember that you’ll still need to reply to messages.
The same goes for any date-based marketing promotions you’re planning. If you normally run a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal, for instance, then you should prepare the collateral for this now. Draft up any ads, posts and/or promotional emails today so that you can launch a thoughtful, potent campaign in a few clicks when the time comes.
Sick of working through Christmas when you’ve promised yourself a break? You’re not alone! Surveys show that around one in five British business owners work through the Christmas break (source). It’s so important for everyone in your business — you included — to be able to rest and recuperate at the end of the year. Get ahead of holiday cover, overtime and ‘crunch’ periods by asking the team for their holiday dates now. If there are weeks where staff numbers are light, you can plan for them long before they become show-stoppers.
If you’re expecting a busy Christmas, then now is the perfect time to trim the fat and turn your business into a lean, mean fashion selling machine!
Examine your outgoings closely. Some expenditures will need to be cut, while others will need to be spent ‘better’. If you rent space or lease vehicles, it might be worth renegotiating those contracts now while you’ve got the time and freedom to focus on it. If there are certain raw materials that you rely on, however, you might save more money in the long run if you can bulk-buy that stock now. It’s all money in the bank, which offers you protection for the busy Christmas period.
Whatever you do, make sure you hit Christmas with plenty of capacity in the tank. If you haven’t got an overdraft facility, now might be the time to talk to your bank. You don’t have to use it — it’s just good to have as a fall-back.
If 2020 (and 2021) taught us anything, it’s that British businesses all need to be prepared for shocks and shifts in the economy. It’s been a tough 18 months, but there’s every chance that the next 18 months could be just as difficult. The spectre of inflation looms over 2022 (source), and there are still big supply chain issues to solve (the Brexit hangover and shipping container costs, for example). It looks like we’re getting a handle on the Covid-19 pandemic, but nothing is set in stone.
There has never been a more exciting time to be an entrepreneur. Business is moving faster than ever before and new opportunities are coming and going at lightning speed. Whatever you do, try to get organised. When the unexpected happens, you’ll be as ready as you can possibly be!
Have a fantastic Christmas (in six months’ time) and — when it’s time to get your labels — you know who to call!
Thanks for reading!