Summer season trading is an extremely important time for many businesses.
Some businesses even take a loss through the year relying on those few months to turn the year into a profit.
With the holiday season approaching, consumers have no idea how they plan to celebrate the holidays, as we don’t know where COVID-19 restrictions and general sentiment will be.
This leaves businesses in a real pickle.
Given the planning required for seasonal trading, businesses need to predict how consumers will spend their money during the seasonal trade, even when consumers don’t know themselves.
There are some trends that can point us to what spending will be like this season, and businesses will need to adapt their offering or potentially their whole business model to ensure they thrive in the current environment, or at the very least, survive.
The COVID-19 spectrum
Many businesses are suffering due to COVID-19, but many are also winning.
Businesses that provide products and services for office workers are doing it tough at the moment, such as suit retailers and cafes in the city.
Likewise, businesses that provide products and services for large-scale entertainment are suffering, including concert vendors and the local fish and chip shop next to a football ground.
However, businesses that normally target medium to large scale events that have pivoted to focus their offerings on work-from-home events and smaller-scale events have reaped the benefits.
Retailers that provide products and services for the home and doing particularly well, such as computing and electronics retailers or home improvement retailers.
Similarly, businesses that cater to entertainment activities which are iso-friendly, such as mountain biking and fishing, are also seeing a boost, as these can be done solo or in a small group.
Preparing for seasonal trading
The trends we are seeing currently can help us understand the seasonal trading that is approaching.
Two key areas to look at are how we are ‘working’ in the current environment as well as how we approaching ‘entertainment’.
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The Party People, for example, is experiencing an extreme sales decline across its event and costume ranges.
In contrast, however, it is seeing sales better than last year in its balloon department, as people are discouraged from having parties at restaurants, nightclubs and other venues, and so are having them almost exclusively at home.
As such, it is tailoring its offering towards decorating, bringing on additional ranges that specifically cater to home parties.
I expect Halloween trading to be extremely soft, with trick or treating and large Halloween parties being non-existent, or at least scaled back in the form of drive-by trick or treating and virtual events.
Instead, people will look to do something at home on a small scale.
Christmas, in contrast, may see fewer large scale events, but we expect trading to be extremely strong, as people look for reasons to have fun and celebrate from home.
So we are expecting wearables to see a decline, but we expect home catering and decorating to be on a scale we have never seen before, with more home get-togethers with the family than usual.
People haven’t been spending on social activities and personal entertainment, so we are expecting people to be a little more generous than usual with gifting, providing significantly strong trade in that area.
In order to capitalise on this anticipated desire to do Christmas big at home, The Party People has adapted its range to focus on home decor and yard decore. This means fewer kris kringle items for office parties, wearables and styles of 100-pack bonbons. It also means putting these ranges front and centre in our stores so they will dominate displays.
Retailers who similarly adapt will likely reap the benefits.
I would expect that those COVID-19 friendly activities (such as fishing and biking) have now become routine for many, and so gifting in these areas will be strong as people look to kit out their friends and family in the best gear for their new hobby.
I would expect department stores to roll this out in the coming weeks, focusing on those newfound star categories.
Likewise, home office and home decorating are certainly two areas where it’s not too late for retailers to focus on.
Many companies have shifted to allow work from home in the long term, and some have even made it permanent, so retailers that focus their range on gifts for the home are likely to trade strongly this Christmas.
In summary, as case numbers continue to fall and we contemplate the potential easing of restrictions, the categories that have done well to date are likely to see even stronger trading for Christmas.
The changes to our hobbies, habits and home life are likely to linger for some time and Christmas is the perfect time for people to get the products they always wanted for their newfound lifestyles.