How to prepare for January sales

Published: 30/12/2019

Amidst the chaos of the festive season, it’s easy as a business to overlook what comes next, the January sales. In fact, it’s not even January, the discounts usually start by Boxing Day so while you might just want to get in your comfies and hoover up the leftover pigs in blankets, as a business owner there’s money to be made. 

Last year, experts predicted UK shoppers would spend $4.75 billion in their post-Christmas bargain hunting, with the keenest amongst them queuing up outside stores from midnight to nab the best deals. You probably want a slice of that pie, right? 

We want to spread a bit of festive cheer and help you rake it in, in the New Year, so here are 11 top tips to help you prepare for the January sales.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

It might be cliche, but it’s certainly true here, planning ahead will ensure you make the most of the spending frenzy. 

Don’t leave it to the last minute, the time to start thinking about the January sales is now. Deciding to partake in the sales should be a strategic decision, made ahead of time, giving you the opportunity to decide on your approach, what you’ll discount, how you’ll cope with the influx, whether you’ve got the tools you’ll need and so on. 

Be selective

When it comes to your offers, careful consideration should be put into what’ll be discounted. 

Tip: your leftover Christmas stock might be a good place to start. Plenty of savvy shoppers stock up on Christmas goodies for the following year and if you can get rid of them at a discounted price, you’ll save yourself the hassle of storing them for another 12 months. 

Did you partake in Black Friday this year? If so, think about what you had on offer then, with it being so close to Christmas anyone in the market for those goods is likely to have picked them up already. 

It’s also important to think about your bottom line throughout. If you reduce the price of everything you sell, combined with the cost of extra staff you’ll likely be hiring, will the sales leave your margins looking healthy? Don’t leave yourself short for the sake of joining in.

Staff

Last year, 50,000 shoppers were through the door of one shopping centre in London by 10am on Boxing day (mind-boggling, right?). The huge rush of customers the sales attract probably means you need extra manpower to help the day(s) run smoothly. 

Remember: you’ll want to provide top customer service, reduce waiting time at tills and keep your shop looking as tidy as possible, too.

Whether you ask regular employees to take on some extra shifts or hire temps to cover the period, start organising the rota early to ensure the days are covered and you don’t fall short and end up with disgruntled shoppers (and steam coming out of your ears).

Returns policy

It’s entirely up to you what you want your policy to be, but deciding on it ahead of time is key so you can let your customers know. 

Some retailers don’t allow any returns on Boxing Day in order to protect the thrust of sales going through, others offer a shorter returns window (or none at all) for items bought at a big discount. Whatever you opt for, you need to let people know in advance to avoid irate shoppers who’ve made a wasted journey.

Suppliers

If you’re hoping to make more sales you’re going to need more stock and more deliveries, but it’s a tricky time of year to manoeuvre since some suppliers might be closed or offer reduced service over the holidays.

So, before the rush, get in touch with your supplier and find out when you’ll be able to get a delivery, when the last date you can order is, and how much notice you’ll need to give when the time comes. Don’t let something you could have dealt with now cost you sales in the future. 

Speaking of supplies, how are your stock management systems performing? How will you know when you’re running low on products without manually checking? If you’ve got an automated system in place, great, if not you might want to consider upgrading your processes. This doesn’t need to break the bank either, EPOS till systems monitor and amend your stock levels while you’re making sales, making it easier to keep track amongst the chaos.

Communicate

Regular store rules seem to go out of the window over the festive period, opening hours tend to be extended, the aforementioned returns policy is often adjusted, and of course, there are heaps of promotions and discounts. 

To help things run smoothly you need to communicate all of these things to your customers so they know where they stand ahead of time. How? Use all the tools at your disposal, including:

  • In-store posters/flyers/signs
  • On your website
  • Social media posts
  • Asking staff to inform consumers at the point of sale (this one’s especially important for your returns policy)
  • Emails to your subscribers.

Can your website handle it?

If you sell online as well as instore, you need to be prepared for a big rise in website traffic too. Check the capacity of your website’s hosting and how many users it can handle - making amends where necessary. 

While you’re at it, look at your online payment systems and ensure they’re functioning correctly as well. Testing everything early should prevent payment mishaps or your site crashing when the sales start to roll in - if that were to happen you could lose a whole heap of sales, and we know you don’t want that. 

Payments

It’s not just online but your bricks and mortar systems you need to look at too. Studies show that more than 40% of shoppers would abandon a purchase if they couldn’t pay on their card, 80% are more likely to shop with a retailer who offers quick payments (according to research from Retail Week Connect), and 98% opt to pay contactless-ly because of its speed. 

So, make sure your payment systems are offering consumers what they want with fast and reliable card machines that take contactless payments.

Market

If you do decide to jump into the January sales with both feet, make sure everyone knows about your fantastic deals. After all, what’s the point in putting all the effort into hiring extra staff, ordering additional stock, opening for longer hours and upgrading your payment systems if it doesn’t result in additional sales?

Drum up interest in your offers ahead of time, post tempting ads across your social media feeds, send out emails detailing the items you’re discounting, and stick promotional posters in your shop windows before Christmas. 

Tip: to avoid confusion and/or disappointment, don’t forget to let people know when your sale will start and finish. 

Train

Whether you decided to hire temp staff or increase the hours of existing ones, you need to be sure everyone’s on the same page when it comes to your January sales. Before the rush, it’s a good idea to set some time aside to train everyone on what you’ll be discounting and by how much, whether your returns policy has changed and what you expect from them over the period. 

Use this opportunity to ensure everyone’s up to scratch on how to use your payment systems too. The last thing you want is a member of staff fluffing up a transaction or giving customers false information and it costing you a sale. 

Remember to bear in mind that the period after Christmas is traditionally spent with loved ones, and come January morale can be quite low. So, while you’re not forcing anyone to work, show your staff how much you appreciate their efforts and boost morale where possible - some simple treats or rewards will do. 

Boost loyalty

Last but not least, why not seize the chance to boost customer loyalty while you’re at it? We don’t need to tell you devoted customers are priceless, so do your bit to both reward and attract them during your January sales.

Here are a couple of ideas on how:

  • Offer an extra discount for subscribers to your newsletter 
  • Give customers with a loyalty card an extra stamp throughout January
  • Hand out 5% off vouchers for anyone who comes back in February
  • A free sweetie (or another incentive) for anyone who signs up to your newsletter 
  • ‘Like and share this social media post for an extra 5% online discount’

The sky’s the limit, but just remember not to leave yourself short by giving away too much and plan your strategy in advance. By offering discounts to existing customers and incentives to potential ones, you’ll be boosting loyalty and ensuring it’s not just January that’s a success but the rest of the year too. 

If your payment systems need a little TLC before the January sales descend, let us help you bring them up to the mark. Whether it’s online payments, EPOS till systems, card machines or contactless, our experts are on hand to ensure your sales are a success. Get in touch today on 0808 274 2017 to get the ball rolling. 

Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce

Copywriter

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