TOURIST BOOM: Suncorp is predicting a busy summer for tourist markets like Coffs Harbour.
TOURIST BOOM: Suncorp is predicting a busy summer for tourist markets like Coffs Harbour. Trevor Veale

Now is the time for businesses to prepare for Christmas

IT MAY be a little early for stockings, tinsel, and fruit mince pies, but Suncorp Bank is encouraging small business owners to prepare now for a busy Christmas season.

Suncorp Bank Head of Business, Troy Constance, said economic signs including a spike in consumer confidence, a lift in discretionary spending, and a boost in domestic travel, underpin predications that this year's Christmas could be particularly busy for local tourism, hospitality and retail operators.

"Typically, November and December present some of the busiest times of the year, and that is only likely to increase with current market conditions enticing more domestic travel and local spending," Mr Constance said.

"For businesses that get it right, the Christmas period is a great time to seize sales opportunities, expand the customer base and ultimately grow the business' market share. However, there are many considerations and forward planning required to prepare your business to handle the rush.

"It is critical that small business owners remain in control of their cash flow and manage staffing, resourcing, budgeting, and stock availability to provide not only a great experience for their customers but a profitable time for their business."

Suncorp Bank has developed the following five tips to help small business owners prepare for Christmas, with no little helpers required:

1. Don't guesstimate, estimate. Look back at seasonal historical sales data to assess expected customer demand for your product or service. Use this knowledge to make an informed decision about what inventory you need to stock up on to avoid having surplus product once sales return to normal.

2. Festive funds. Once you have assessed anticipated sales, manage your finances accordingly. If you anticipate the need to purchase increased stock supplies, speak to your bank as early as possible about temporarily increasing your overdraft account limit.

3. Get your people ready. Assess whether you will require additional staff to meet holiday demand and hire early to ensure they are well-trained before the busy time hits. Finding staff to manage busy periods and allowing leave for existing staff is one of the big pain points for most small businesses, so the earlier you can finalise rosters the better.

4. Speed of delivery. Are you equipped to handle incoming traffic both in your physical store and online? More and more, shoppers are jumping online to do their research before making a purchase. Keep on top of social media enquiries, test various aspects of your online store, including load time and checkout speed, and, if you offer postage, clearly state realistic delivery times to avoid a negative customer experience.

5. Fast track 2016. While the lead up to Christmas is busy for everyone, it is important to take a long-term view and plan for a drop in trading come January. Consider additional variables, including the weather, consumer confidence, the political climate, consumer debt, exchange rates, and other economic factors relevant to your industry that could influence the shopping behaviour of your customers. If your business tends to slowdown, plan staff training and social activities to promote staff harmony, and perform

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