Image Credit: Chance Agrella

In Northern Europe, there is an old proverb that encourages to ‘prepare your sledge in the summer’. While conserving berries and repairing windows in summertime is not a necessity nowadays, starting preparations for the winter as early as possible is still very true in business, as the beginning of winter comes together with the largest sales in the year. According to the US Census Bureau, the retail and food sales in December 2012 has made up roughly 10% of all the sales of the year, with more than a $100 billion difference from the weaker months such as January. So if a business wants to have its share of the holiday sales pie, it’s only logical to start preparing for it in the summer – or even earlier.

In this blog series, we will break up all of the tips on what needs to be addressed into three categories. In the second and third part, we will look into marketing and inventory/shipping respectively, and this part is all about the product range and sales channels. So if you have an online business, we believe our insights can really help you to prepare – there’s quite a lot to do after all!

Widen your product range

If you have some products that haven’t paid off before or that you have some doubts about, late summer or autumn is a good time to try or try again. People tend to buy some things they would have never even considered before when shopping for Christmas presents, and, simply said, it’s a good chance to cash in on the items that wouldn’t be profitable otherwise. What is more, most of the shoppers just don’t have that additional time needed to find the best available deals, so don’t just remove the items that don’t get any sales in spring or summer from your assortment, as you might be surprised what people actually buy during the Christmas sales. For some businesses, it’s also a great idea to offer some holiday-themed merchandise, such as coffee mugs or t-shirts.  Another thing to think about is gift-wrapping – if you don’t already offer that during the winter sales months, it really is a thing to consider. You can always charge extra for that, so you won’t have any additional expenses, and it gives that extra convenience that the customers are looking for, especially when they have little time on their hands.

Expand to new online marketplaces

As the market is more active than ever during the Christmas sales, it’s a good idea to increase the number of potential customers you can reach by expanding your business to some of the online marketplaces you haven’t used before. So if you’re selling your handcrafted goods on your web-store, maybe it’s high time you tried Etsy? Setting up accounts on new marketplaces is sometimes costly and always time-consuming, but it’s certainly worth the effort if you’re looking to increase your sales in winter. As creating a good reputation on any marketplace takes time (and you can’t expect a lot of sales if you don’t have one), it’s essential to start expanding as early as you can. If you’re lacking ideas on where exactly to expand, you can always have a look at our previous blog series introducing a handful of online marketplaces.

Maintain your reputation

According to recent research, seller reputation positively influences consumers’ perceived product quality which in turn affects their willingness to buy. It gets even more important during the holiday sales, as people simply don’t have the time to look through numerous seller profiles, so they tend to chose those who they believe can be trusted. Thus if you’re rather new at a certain marketplace or if the reviews of your previous customers aren’t 100% positive, you shouldn’t expect a large increase in sales before the holidays. That’s why it’s even more important than ever to go above and beyond for each and every one of your customers a couple months before winter, as you might end up losing sales if you don’t do that.

From the perspective of products and sales channels, expanding your product range and starting to sell in new marketplaces while also maintaining your reputation in the ones you already use might be the deciding factor whether Christmas brings some extra profits to your business in addition to the festive atmosphere. While doing all of it might not be necessary, especially if you sell at your own online store, there are plenty of other ways you could (and should) be starting to prepare for the holiday sales right now – come back for more tips next week!