How to Prepare Your Retail Business for the Festive Season

Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.

Christmas is fast approaching once more after two of the most challenging years the retail sector has faced.

We’re going to look at the hottest trends and help you get your business prepared for an eagerly anticipated Christmas.

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People are buying earlier than usual

With the vaccine rollout and restrictions lifting, UK shoppers are hoping there won’t be another ‘cancelled Christmas’. And they’re ready to spend. Thanks to a number of factors, including the money saved from working from home, some people are sitting on a bigger shopping fund than normal. Future plc reported shoppers saved nearly £200 billion in lockdown and in a survey of 2,000 people, more than half plan to make this their biggest Christmas yet.

The rise of eCommerce

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has transformed the shopping experience and accelerated the rise in spending online. People have either been forced to stay away from physical stores during lockdowns or have preferred to avoid the risk of getting ill by purchasing on the internet.

Although 2021 is likely to reveal a return to physical shopping to an extent, eCommerce is here to stay. Osome noted that online shopping accounts form more than a quarter of all UK sales. They predict this will rise steadily until reaching nearly a third by 2024.

People are shopping on social media than ever before

With people making the most of the great indoors since March 2020, social media channels have been a useful medium to interact and stay in touch. Platforms such as Instagram have grabbed the chance to capitalise, with shoppable posts making it simple for businesses to sell through the app.

Adweek say a recent survey revealed that before the pandemic, 65% preferred spending in-store and 18% did so via social media. Now only 27% enter bricks-and-mortar shops and 54% prefer to use Instagram to spend.

Ethical shopping

A global study in 2020 by Accenture said consumer habits have evolved since the pandemic began. They claimed 60% of those surveyed were making more environmentally friendly, ethical and sustainable purchases since March 2020. Nine out of 10 intended to continue to do so.

Although food is at the forefront of the rise of eco-friendly shopping, other industries have also felt this change. The BBC highlighted children’s clothing firm Frugi as one beneficiary, enjoying a 60% rise in orders for its clothes made solely from organic cotton and recycled plastic.

The impact of Brexit

Since late summer, many media reports have painted a potentially gloomy picture for this Christmas. Britain’s HGV driver shortage has resulted in a fuel crisis and empty shelves in shops.

Such news is another reason for people to buy earlier and plan ahead, and it’s important you’re aware of that too as December approaches, and consider stock management in the run up to the festive season.

As we can see, planning ahead is going to be key for the success of your business this festive season. Here are some tips on how to make the best of Christmas coming early this year.

Analyse last year’s data

First things first – go over past year’s Christmas sales data. Remind yourself what worked and what didn’t. Consider the successes as a starting point for your plans this this year. Which sales or promotional offers brought a solid return on investment? Which products outperformed predictions? Which campaigns impressed and which didn’t?

Develop a promotional or marketing plan

Use the data you analysed to test out promotional items and market them, whether that’s in-store or online. If you’re omnichannel, why not try both? The earlier you can test your plans, the more chance you have to refine them. Square Marketing can help with promotional plans including email campaigns, and you can analyse the impact of your marketing too. Come Christmas, you’ll have a well-oiled machine ready to entice eager customers.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Over the years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have provided a great way to see what works and what doesn’t in the world of retail. Although last year’s Covid restrictions created a big drop in high-street sales, online numbers remained strong. Both should do well this year as shoppers warm up for the festive season. In 2021, Black Friday falls on November 26th and Cyber Monday, November 29th. Put those plans to work.

Make friends and influence people

With the ongoing, ever-expanding presence of social media in our lives, including the world of retail, isn’t it time you considered working with an influencer? Influencers are experts in adding creative flair and an emotional touch to products. The best in the field work on content strategies alongside retailers and use their ability, platform and reach to speak the language of consumers. Having an influencer on your side could really make an impact on your Instagram and Facebook pages.

How to prepare for retail challenges during the festive season

So, many shoppers are gearing up for what they hope is their biggest Christmas ever. But as we’ve seen, the pandemic is still here, and post-Brexit shortages could lend a double blow to the best-laid plans of retailers. What can be done to prevent festivities being ruined?


Running out of stock in the middle of the festive season can leave retailers tearing their hair out. You could lose valuable sales and customers may go elsewhere for the product. In the Christmas rush, they might not have time to wait for stock to come in.

Square Online helps you keep track of your inventory so you have time to restock before running out. Look in advance at what’s selling well, and possibly reorder more than you normally would to keep stock at a healthy level.

Staffing shortages

This is always a potential pitfall in winter, but this year sees the double threat of Covid and flu looming. Consider hiring extra staff, offering bonuses and flexibility to entice them over Christmas. Offering these to existing staff will also make them more likely to stick around through the busiest time of the year. If you have a physical shop, pay attention to Covid precautionary measures to prevent staff getting ill.

Shipping constraints

Get contingency plans in place for potential delays and have meetings with your suppliers as early as possible to see which products could be affected. You may have to reduce product variety and concentrate on your bestsellers or explore alternative delivery options. When it comes to fulfilling deliveries to customers, you might want to relax same day/next day delivery requirements and manage customer expectations.

Despite these challenges, there are plenty of reasons to be positive about Christmas this year. Customers have saved and stayed indoors for so long, they’re ready to revel in the Christmas spirit and make this a festive season to remember.