Peak Season Trading in a Covid World

With the second lockdown now in place across England, it would be quite easy to focus on furloughing the team and then arranging to re-open your shops in exactly the same way we did back in the summer. However, this time around things are going to be hugely different. Assuming this second lockdown ends on 2nd December, we are going to be re-opening our shops during the absolute peak of the retail season and, as such, we must plan very specifically for that.

The reopening of shops after the last lockdown demonstrated that there was a strong desire from the public to support the retail industry by getting straight back out and shopping on the high street. This time the demand may actually be even higher given it will be December and the Christmas demand will be considerable. Given our role in the charity retail industry, we were in the privileged position to see first-hand what hundreds of charities implemented in terms of their lockdown and reopening plans. It was abundantly clear that the charities which used the lockdown time to optimise their shop layouts, get their donation strategy right and plan the correct trading hours for their locations upon reopening, saw like for like sales. For those that did not, this second lockdown is a new opportunity to get it right and benefit from the sales that are evidently available upon reopening.

This year the number of Christmas peak trading days are going to be shorter than ever before. The result is that consumers will have a condensed period to do all of their festive shopping and this includes the traditional January sale period. Traditionally, charity retail does not imitate its commercial counterparts by offering a January sale. However, for January 2021 it is something we would highly recommend. Discounting your donated goods to generate a big ‘January Sale’ feel could reap huge rewards due to consumers having not had their usual opportunity to spend freely on the high street.

The other consideration is every traditional retailer will be having their largest and most important sale in January 2021, and charity retailers need to compete with this as best they can or have a massive sales gap against budget and potential.

During this period of greatest opportunity, the trading hours need to be stretched to meet the local trading conditions, which will ensure the maximum sales are achieved. This will require careful planning. For example, giving your shop team an extra hours’ time off/in lieu rather than paying them overtime should be a carefully considered option.

Many charities do sell their Christmas cards and gifts at a reduced price in January. However, this will be the year to clear new goods if you have any, sell through the Christmas cards as early as possible even if at a reduced price. Of course, you should use your shops for this where possible but also consider starting this online in November if you can. You should not wait for the shops to reopen to action the clearing of your Christmas stock.

Selling goods online should be a growing focus of yours and your E-Commerce operation should be a flourishing part of any charity retail business in 2020 and beyond. This is quickly becoming a business-critical aspect of charity retail and the second lockdown, coupled with the approaching festive season, means there is no better opportunity to trade online strongly through both.

Here are the top 4 tips known as OPEN.
O – O is for Opening Hours. Ensure that, during this festive period, the shops’ opening hours are the optimum hours of trading to take advantage of the peak season sales opportunity.
P – P is for Preparation and Planning. Peak season this year needs detailed planning because the key trading window lasts only until early January. Where a January Sale is highly recommended.
E – E is for E-Commerce. Make sure that your e-commerce business is focused on achieving a high number of listings to best practice. It also needs to have a lean and efficient supply chain with your trading platforms fully integrated with your logistics provider.
N – N is for New Goods. These offerings bought in for Christmas, such as greeting cards, need to be heavily promoted and sold through completely.

Get the above right and you will have a fantastic opportunity but don’t forget to read the blog ‘(Retail) Space: The Final Frontier’ because retail utilisation is incredibly important and so it should be considered in any change to shop layout.

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