Author Bio: Sophie Summers is a freelance copywriter with a background in the Arts, an extensive behind-the-scenes knowledge of luxury fashion and retail, imminent traveller and writer of “motions-emotions”. 

As a startup, it’s pertinent to understand how you can both influence and facilitate your customers’ shopping habits in the run up to Christmas 2016, so that you can make the best of what is undoubtedly the golden goose in terms of retail profits.  So in the spirit of things, let’s take a staggeringly unromantic twelve-days-of-Christmas-style look at how you can feather your retail nest this Yuletide.  You’ll pardon me if there aren’t twelve and they don’t rhyme. We all want to get a head start this year;

Deck the halls

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me – early seasonal merchandising.

We know it’s bad luck to put the decorations up too far in advance but not for retailers!  It’s worth acknowledging that, even though many shoppers hold off until the end of November when there are deals to be had, Christmas starts to make its presence felt much sooner than that.  There’s a pun in there somewhere.

This means that you can start to at least offer consumers a whiff of Christmas a few months ahead.  Whether that’s creating an online Christmas shop within your site or a small space in your retail store dedicated to all things that glitter, or taste of cinnamon and cloves, there are little ways that retailers of all sizes can gently reference the festive period ahead of the official countdown.

Luxury retail behemoth Selfridges opened its Christmas shop in August this year and, aside from the odd Twitter retort, customers didn’t seem to mind!

Dazzle and entice

On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me – a well timed marketing push.

ASDA kicked Christmas off last year – airing its big seasonal ad ahead of the competition on November 1st – and nobody wants to be the last one to the party, The Independent notes. It’s likely that the big retailers will try to capture their customers’ festive imaginations even earlier this year;

“The adverts are appearing earlier every year, but you can hardly blame the retailers for wanting to get in early. Research shows that one in five people will have done at least some Christmas shopping by the first week of November”

This isn’t to say that you need to spend half a million on prime time TV advertising, but a timely email, leaflet drop or social media drive can work wonders for captivating would-be customers.

Give (discounts) generously

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me – Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Yes, this is one gift horse you do not want to look in the mouth this year.  In 2014, Black Friday really came into its own in the UK – albeit with a Lord of the Flies-esque savagery that surprised us all – and last year the UK retail industry took a jaw-dropping £3.3bn in sales over the promotional weekend – 35% up on the previous year’s total.

It is becoming more common now for retailers to adopt a trickled discount approach over a longer time scale, often running promotions into the post-Black Friday week.

This has two benefits; firstly shoppers are less likely to break down your shop shutters – or website – and harm each other in a bid to grab a bargain and, secondly, it means that you run less risk of completely selling out of everything on the first day and having to pull the “closed” sign over the front door.

Staggered sales, it would seem, ease the stress on your business and create a calmer shopping experience all round.

Lapland or laptop?

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me – my shopping coming to me (that one did rhyme!)

The preference last year was most definitely to cosy up, avoid the cold and potential hordes, and shop from the comfort and security of one’s own home.

According to the Centre for Retail Research; sales via “bricks” fell by 0.1% during the Christmas period last year – fashion being the worst hit – compared with an uplift in online sales of around 11%.

This doesn’t mean that if you’ve set up a retail store you’re doomed but it does mean that you should consider the strength of your online offering.  Perhaps bolster your stock levels on key lines ahead of the digital surge, and make sure that you have the customer service support to handle the extra questions which will no doubt come flying your way.  Even if this is just you, with mobile phone set to “ring” instead of “silent”.  Most startups don’t have a call centre operation, after all.

If you don’t have a website, think about doing something out of the ordinary to drag those weary customers in off the streets.  Nick Fletcher, director of multichannel services – Rakuten Marketing, notes that it’s the little nuances you can’t get online which could be a draw for customers;

“Help them enjoy the experience through little perks or a pleasant atmosphere and they’re likely to spend more time (and money)”

So there you have it.  A couple of tinsel-adorned tips to get you in the mood for all the frivolity and opportunity that comes but once a year.  Even if that “once” seems to get longer each time.  Is it too early for mulled wine?