I’ll let you in on a secret. Every December, I write a business preparation checklist on an A4 piece of paper and stick it into my brand new diary. I tape it in around the October section so I can remember the lessons I learnt this season to be as prepared as possible for the next holiday season. Future Christina is always thankful that I take the time to do this. As a jeweller, the last three months of the year are my busiest, and account for the largest percentage of my earnings. Most small businesses see a rise in sales in the lead-up to Christmas. Being disorganised at this time of year leads to missed opportunities, negative word of mouth and worst still, loss of sales. Managing your time, cash flow, stock and production for the holiday season really begins in January. But fear not! Here's what you can do right now to make the most of the holiday season and be better prepared for next year. Your future self will thank you!
Holiday season business prep checklist
Stocktake consumables: Make a list of the items and packaging you will need between now and the new year. Include everything, then overestimate how much you will need of each item and start stocking up as cash flow allows. For my business, this includes mailers, packaging, business cards, stickers, ribbon, metal, drills, emery, flux and wrapping paper. Most supply businesses shut down before Christmas and open again mid-January. Rushing to order branded gift boxes or ribbon at the last minute is not only stressful, but is time better spent working on revenue earning tasks. Buying in bulk will also save you money with lower prices and postage costs.
Restock your shop: Stock up on all the product offerings you will continue to sell in the new year. For me, this means ordering metal, gemstones and castings, then turning these into products to fill my safe. It can be hard to know which products will be the best sellers during the holidays, but keep in mind that price points between twenty and ninety dollars do well. In my business, earrings sell well as they don’t require resizing like rings do. Review your best sellers for the year and make predictions based on these numbers. Stock up on any items you will be promoting.
Organise a photo shoot: While you are stocking up on products and consumables, stock up on images as well. If you are producing high-quality items, you need high-quality visuals to represent your brand. Consumers are bombarded by images and have higher expectations than they used to. Take the time to plan a Christmas-themed photo shoot with images that will stop your clients mid-scroll. What will your theme be? What will be the focus of your Christmas marketing promotion? Create a Pinterest board of inspiration, gather your props, secure a model or friend, get out your camera or hire a photographer and set aside a few hours to style and shoot your products. If you can aim for thirty images, you will have a library to use across all your platforms in the lead up to Christmas. Use free online editing software like Canva to create Facebook, blog, newsletter and shop headers and save them to a file for Christmas branding. Then these will all be ready to go on December 1st, or whenever you choose to start your Christmas promotions.
Schedule social media: Once you have the images ready, draft blog posts and newsletters and use scheduling apps to plan your social media. When things get busy, social media is often the first thing we stop paying attention to, but is a huge revenue earner at this time of year. I use Dropbox and Mosaico for this. I can then upload every edited image from the shoot, write a caption, create a list of tags and post to a twice-daily schedule on Instagram.
Review your online presence: Check that your product descriptions are up to date, re-read your policies, check for continuity in your branding. Are you using the same profile image across all social media? Send a dummy email from your contact page to confirm there are no broken links. You don’t want to miss customer inquiries, or confuse customers across platforms with mixed branding.
Promote yourself: Start planning and promoting. How will you reach out to prior customers? How will you engage with new customers? What offers will you use to entice customers to purchase now, rather than putting it off? For my business, I print postcards using an image from my Christmas shoot, hand-write a thank-you note and send it on the 1st of December to every customer I had that year, offering them a ten percent discount online. This is the only discounting I do, as I feel discounting is the death of small business, and value adding (for example, offering a free polishing cloth with an order) is a more sustainable practice. I also create limited numbers of lower-price pieces that include postage and offer them exclusively for sale on Instagram. The limited number, price point and time sensitivity mean they sell quickly. I also offer free upgrades to express shipping as my mailing cut-off approaches.
Set cut-offs: I like to sell up to the last possible moment, but knowing when your cut-off dates are is crucial to ensure you can deliver on your promises. Look at your calendar and write down the last possible dates you can mail products to clients overseas, interstate and with Express Post (keeping in mind that even next-day delivery takes two days in many places in Australia). If you sell your goods wholesale, you will also need to advise your retailers of your wholesale order cut-off date. If they place an order mid-December, will you realistically be able to fill it and keep up with your online sales? I tend to make my wholesale cut-off mid-November, but stay as flexible as I can to serve my retailers right up until Christmas. If you create custom work, you will need another cut-off date. In my industry, client work can involve several different processes, from casting to engraving, handmaking to gem setting, and each of these suppliers are likely stretched to capacity. Jobs that can usually be done in one day take a week at this time of year. Start educating your clients about these cut-offs so you get a manageable flow of orders rather than a flood at the last minute. Keep reminding customers of your cut off dates: include them in your newsletters, on your website and again on social media.
Relax: Schedule time for family, friends and social activities this holiday season. By following the checklist above, you will have more time to spend enjoying the season, not just working through it.
Christina Lowry is a designer and jeweller who creates fine jewellery for creatives. Her work is featured in several Australian galleries, as well as in her online store. Christina fell in love with jewellery making while studying a Bachelor of Fine Art/Visual Art. Each piece is lovingly made by hand in her Brisbane workshop, incorporating precious metals and gemstones and using traditional metalworking techniques. To see more of her work, visit her website, Facebook page, and follow her on Instagram (@christinalowrydesigns).
Photography by Trudi Le Brese Photography for Christina Lowry Designs