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How small retailers can survive the bumper sales weekend

Last year, UK shoppers set new records; with total sales on the Friday reaching £1.23 billion, a 12.2% increase on 2015, and while it has proven to be a success for some big-name retailers – last year John Lewis saw five orders placed every second, beating expectations – not all retailers are so happy to see the sales weekend roll around again.

For small retailers who don’t have their own logistics network, or the number of staff or appropriate website infrastructure to handle such high in-store or online sales volumes, the impact of this weekend can be severe.

Here are the five key things that smaller retail organisations should consider when preparing their business for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending weekend:

Giving the right discount

Big retailers have the money and ability to add larger mark-ups to their products, so there is still room for them to make a profit even when an additional discount has been added, while many small retailers may not be able to afford to drive costs down further. Shop owners must be smart with the discounts they offer and make sure they are still able to make a profit whilst remaining competitive.

Buy first, return later

Yes, consumers are more willing to buy over this weekend, but that doesn’t mean they are willing to keep. An increase in sales does also, in many cases, mean an increase in returns. Smaller retailers must think beyond the weekend and factor in the chance of returns into their finances, otherwise they could fall short when predicting their profit and loss.

Buying stock is a balancing act

Buying from suppliers may be costly, and on normal days when the shop isn’t as busy, having two of every item in stock may just be enough. Yet more shoppers are expected on the high street during this bumper sales weekend, so having enough stock in store to cover extra sales is crucial. Use data from previous years to understand what’s likely to sell, buy enough stock to keep customers happy, but bear in mind that going over board and not selling risks problems with your cash flow.

Having to rely on others

Unlike larger retailers, most small businesses do not benefit from having their very own logistics service that can adapt to the demand over the busy period. Instead, they must rely on external services that are already busy with multiple other suppliers. Small retailers must offer their customers a guaranteed delivery time that aligns with what their courier service can offer. Introducing a slightly longer delivery time over the busy period could help with the demand and keep your customers satisfied.

Plan, predict and manage

No matter how big a business is, the key to success over this weekend is preparing for every eventuality. It should not be weeks in the planning but months, and failing to have a complete overview of your finances could stop you in your tracks. Having a holistic view of your finances that monitors all money coming in and going out is crucial to surviving the weekend of extra sales and extra returns. If you play your cards right and plan for every outcome, your small retailing business can reap all the success of this long weekend of serious spending.

Dominic Allon is Europe VP and managing director of Intuit

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