For crafters and small businesses alike, one of the busiest and most exciting times of the year is the holiday season, which stretches from October to the end of December. With a bit of advanced planning and preparation, both small and large volume sellers gain the ability to make the most of the holiday sales season. Numerous sources indicate that for many small, retail businesses, 20% of their annual sales will occur in the 4th quarter. With proper preparation, you can make your busy season run smoothly and save yourself a tremendous amount of stress.
A “ramp-up” period happens in business when the demand for a product or service is expected to surge. This could be before a product launch, before a major buying season (like back-to-school or holidays), or before a rebranding period or special promotional event. A ramp-up period typically requires a significant amount of preparation, from product manufacturing to communications to marketing.
Lead times for procuring raw materials for holiday manufacturing vary depending on numerous factors in the supply chain, but they are always more compressed during the ramp up to Black Friday and beyond. This means that you should be planning well in advance of the rush for your holiday products so that you do not experience delays in the arrival of your raw materials. Delays create a snowball effect which affects your ability to not only manufacture, but deliver your finished goods in time for holiday buyers.
Here are four tips to make sure you can take advantage of the increase in demand and your manufacturing processes do not fail during crunch time:
1. Beef Up Sales Staff for Holiday Manufacturing
Even if your business is too small yet for employees, it’s helpful to have a backup plan and part-time or seasonal assistance if you become busier than expected, ill or overbook yourself for holiday markets or shows. Start looking for qualified helpers early on, so you don’t find yourself in a bind as it gets closer to the holidays. You will need enough time to train these helpers in what you expect as well as teaching them your product line and pricing structure so that they can easily communicate with potential clients.
2. Review Software Efficiency and Social Media Readiness
If you’re using software to collect sales like a website or portable credit card reader now is the time to run a system check and verify that everything is in working order. One of the worst things that can happen is for technology to malfunction in the middle of a potential sale. Update your listings online, consider using new product photography to highlight your holiday offerings and plan out how you will advertise your holiday line. If you intend to use social media, ensure that all of your accounts list the pertinent information to allow potential buyers to reach you in one click (or to purchase directly from your social media account through Facebook and Pinterest). If you haven’t already, add a link to your website that allows potential clients to sign up for your newsletter so that you can keep them in the loop for any special offers or sales.
3. Check Your Existing Raw Materials Needs and Submit Supply Orders Now
If you are planning to cash in on a hot trend like Pumpkin Spice or Turmeric, now is the time to stock up on the ingredients required to manufacture those items. A few years ago there was a shortage of pumpkin right before the holiday season, and skincare manufacturers scrambled at the last minute to stock up on what they could find or to revamp their holiday offerings entirely. There’s nothing worse than planning an entire product line around an ingredient that you can’t or won’t be able to procure. Plan far enough in advance and research your raw materials so you can plan to ramp up your inventory ahead of the rush and avoid disappointment. If you offer gift sets or gift wrapping, now is the time to stock up on your packaging or wrap and do a test run to make sure everything you need is in place. Supplier lead times will begin to increase, and you should prepare for longer delivery times and out of stock notifications on holiday packaging and trendy materials that are in high demand. This is part of holiday preparation, and if you prepare for it, you won’t be surprised or disappointed when you can’t get the materials needed in the timeframe you expect.
4. Start Taking Stock of Your Manufacturing Process Needs Early Next Year
The demands of the holiday season are always going to be fluid, and the key to success is reviewing where you had the fewest issues. If you added the right number of seasonal staff or spruced up your software to improve efficiency, you may only need to make a few tweaks. If at the end of the season, you instead view the holidays as an abject failure it is time to review what went wrong and how to fix it before the next season. Failures, just like successes, need to be viewed as a learning experience.
By tracking your company’s sales trends, successes and failures you can set your business up for a happy new year. Once you’ve put all of the pieces in place, focus your attention on keeping your shelves stocked and your customers happy.