Top tips for makers at Christmas, by Emily Fox of Skull and Cross Buns Rubber StampsPosted on 26th October 2022
As part of our Help for Small Businesses series, Emily of Skull and Cross Buns gives us her tips on making a big success of your Christmas season.
My 10 top tips for makers at Christmas
The Christmas trading period in retail, whether it be in-person, in-store or online, is the most important and exciting part of the trading year for many.
It can fire your creativity into designing and making beautiful gifts or fabulous finishing touches for your customers, to help them live their best and most memorable Christmasses.
Plus it also injects a lot of cash flow into your business to help fund growth and to have something in the pot to help during the quieter months.
It doesn’t come without its challenges though! At Skull and Cross Buns Rubber Stamps we are heading into our 14th Christmas (!) now trading online and every year without fail brings fresh obstacles to overcome.
As with everything in life, preparation is key and here’s some of our hints and tips and points to consider to help you confidently navigate the next few months – regardless of what troubles it may throw your way!
Get your main machinery/tools of the trade serviced and running smoothly before it gets too busy.
There is nothing more frustrating when you are staring at a large pile of orders, or prepping for the next market, and something goes wrong with a crucial part of your making process – and production comes to a grinding halt!
Have some backup processes in place to help with your production.
When our machine went kaput during Cyber Weekend a few years ago, we luckily had a back up way of producing our stamps. Do you have any other maker friends that you can call on to make any of your components? Or do some sewing or assembly, for example, in the short term if the worst happens?
If anything does go wrong, keep customers informed as quickly as you can.
Don’t worry, most people will be absolutely lovely and understanding, as long as you keep them well informed.
Stock can always be an issue at peak times when everyone else is looking to stock up on packaging or parts at the same time.
Research alternative suppliers well in advance. Even think outside the box (food packaging like pizza boxes or cardboard cartons can be surprisingly competitive price wise!). Or maybe try bulk buying with another maker to get better price breaks on ordering larger quantities.
If you offer your products mail order, the Royal Mail upcoming proposed strikes will no doubt be a concern.
Research couriers now. Parcel Monkey and Parcel2Go are good comparison sites to help you determine good backup services. You can also get cheaper rates if you drop your packages off to DPD rather than opt for collections DPD.
Add an upsell option listing to your Etsy shops, or offer more postal options for your customers to choose from. Don’t be alarmed if the couriers take longer than quoted, as they will be inundated with new customers who usually use RM. Build in lots of wiggle room to your expected delivery timescales.
Customer service can be tricky to manage this time of year.
When you’re feeling tired and the queries chasing orders are piling up, it can feel endless. It’s easy to take things a bit personally! Have a good selection of stock replies you can easily copy and paste to save valuable time, which takes some of the emotion out of replying. If a customer has upset you with a curt message, pause and reply later.
If delivery is delayed, refer customers to the Service Update page (updated daily) on the Royal Mail website to see if there are any key delays in their postcode area.
Check your listings and shop banners. Can you add any answers to often asked questions there? Add some auto replies to your email and marketplace convos to help answer some commonly asked q’s before you get a chance to respond properly.
Running a home and looking after yourself can be tricky when the business is at an all-consuming time.
Try to bulk prep some delicious and nutritious meals in advance, and pop a load in the freezer. Or consider a meal subscription service like Hello Fresh, so you’ve got simple recipes to follow rather than creating a whole meal plan for the week.
Drink plenty of water and get in some nice treats to keep you going (we have a coffee and a mince pie after the post run each day!)
Ask for help from friends and family.
They could help prep your dispatch boxes ready for orders, take the post to the post office or be a great support setting up and working with you at markets and fairs.
Don’t be afraid to pause your online shops/pop the shop in vacation mode to catch up.
It’s better to manage your workload rather than being completely overwhelmed – we’ve done this plenty of times over the years. It doesn’t affect the algorithm much at all if your listings and SEO are on point.
It may feel like a bit of a slog sometimes endlessly fulfilling orders or setting up your market stall for the nth time but enjoy it!
Think of all of those customers you have delighted with the products you dreamed up and created. It is your items they have thoughtfully chosen to gift on Xmas day to their nearest and dearest!
Emily Fox and her partner Jon run Skull and Cross Buns Rubber Stamps, scrumptious rubber stamps from heavenly Devon!
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