Here comes record-breaking Christmas spending: Is your business ready for the rush?

Five tricks retailers can use to snap up shoppers this Christmas

There are fewer than 50 shopping days until Christmas, and retailers around the country are being urged to prepare for what looks to be a record year for spending.

Research from insurance and loans provider Finder.com.au shows that Australians are expected to spend $9.77 billion dollars on Christmas gifts in 2016.

This is an increase of 28% from last year, and one in three Australians say that as of October, they’d already started Christmas shopping.

The survey asked 2,005 Australians about how much they would be planning to spend at Christmas time this year.

On average we will spend $539 on the Christmas period, up from an average of $419 in 2015. Experts believe the jump is due to increased consumer confidence.

“With unemployment at the lowest level in three years and interest rates at an all-time low, Australian shoppers are feeling confident and generous, “ Bessie Hassan, Money Expert at Finder.com.au said in a release.

Read more: Silly season guide for employers: How to plan for a work Christmas party and minimise the risks

With this spending frenzy, retailers are advised to start getting on top of staffing and extended trading hours.

Russell Zimmerman, chief executive of the Australian Retailers Association, told SmartCompany this morning that Christmas trading can be a “big issue” for smaller retailers.

Manage your people correctly

“The first thing is to understand trading hours. There are extended trading hours across the country, so there will be a lot more time spent on the floor for both owners and staff,” Zimmerman says.

“It’s important to keep in mind that staff still have time to do their Christmas shopping.”

Retail expert at Queensland University School of Business Gary Mortimer believes that retailers should be finalising their rosters now, and beginning to employ staff for Christmas.

“Retailers should be making sure they have both sufficient staff and well-trained staff. It’s a good idea to get staff on now and train them up for Christmas,” Mortimer says.

“And with all the late night trade, some retailers should be keeping the security of their staff in mind. You don’t want young people walking to their cars alone late at night.”

Many department stores will have security for this, says Mortimer, but smaller retailers should make sure staff are safe at the end of late shifts.

Zimmerman agrees that staff should be being trained up now, but also advises retailers to diversify the staff they hire.

“Look at hiring some younger people and some older people, as the right mixture will be best for your store,” he says.

“Older workers have more stability and experience, and younger people can be trained by the older workers.”

“And of course, make sure you pay all your staff correctly for longer trading hours and public holidays.”

Stock up on hot products

Both Mortimer and Zimmerman agree that retailers should be on top of their stock needs over the Christmas period, as running out of a hot product can be bad news.

“Many retailers will be wondering what the big item for this year will be, and most will have no idea,” Zimmerman says.

“Its important to keep in close contact with your suppliers so you can get hold of a product to restock your shelves quickly.”

Mortimer thinks that premium-style products and retailers will see more business this Christmas, highlighting butchers, fishmongers, and fruiterers, as places shoppers will go to “treat themselves”.

For food retailers, Mortimer says Christmas is a “two-day event”.

“Food retailers will need to have a stockpile two days out from Christmas, and they’ll need to clear space in their stockrooms. Some should consider putting more physical spaces around the store for stock,” he says.

“For department stores, it’s more of a slow burn that kicks off towards the end of November. Once Christmas trees go up on December 1, it’s time to be ready with your inventory.”

Online matters

Retail expert at the Retail Doctor Group Brian Walker notes that retailers will do 30-35% of their business at Christmas, and the majority of buying will be done in-store

“Despite this, it’s important that retailers have a strong online presence, as 90% of pre-purchase research happens online,” Walker told SmartCompany.

“[For] shoppers that purchase products online for Christmas, the next few weeks are the window so it’s important that retailers have products in stock online.”

Walker also thinks that a strong customer database is necessary, so retailers can send out their Christmas offers to hopeful shoppers.

However, he believes that this Christmas won’t be “radically different to last year”.

“We might see a small uptick to 10-12% online purchases, and that’s normally around 8%. Nothing I’ve seen suggests an overwhelming dominance of online purchasing,” he says.

Tis the season for good marketing practices

Finally, advertising expert at InsideOut PR Nicole Reaney told SmartCompany that the biggest thing to keep in mind for retailers is the “absolute bombardment” of products and advertising in the face of consumers.

“Consumers are time poor, stressed and are looking for messages that hit their touch points: savings, unique/handy gift ideas and ease and speed of obtainment,” Reaney says.

“Make a decision as to whether you really need to compete in the season, and perhaps consider New Year when consumers are in holiday mode and receptive to messages.”

Reaney thinks that businesses need to be “highly selective” with their promotions this Christmas period, as normal messaging might not cut it.

“Keep messages succinct, crafted powerfully and use repetition to cut through the brand clutter,” she advises.

Social media can provide a valuable and flexible forum that is adaptable to many different businesses, and can show real results with a bit of spending.

“Inject a spend that results in consumers seeing your brand messaging repeatedly. Consider an engaging sponsored post that results in more people viewing, interacting and sharing your content,” she says.

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