Why SMEs should be preparing for Christmas 2014 now

IN: Industry news

Last year's tinsel is barely stuffed back in the store cupboard and the customary Christmas-do- hangover of sheepish faces and awkward encounters by the printer are still in full effect.

Whilst the January blues have barely even set in, it's understandable that you don't feel ready to even think about next year yet. But here are four reasons why it might pay to get ahead…

Turn it into a money-making opportunity

We can all relate to that sinking feeling when it comes round to November and all that's saved for Christmas is six cut-price crackers that you picked up from 'Wilko's' in the January sales.

As it's pretty much just happened, this miserable fate will be fairly prominent in your employees' minds. So when you offer them a chance to participate in 'Christmas Club', by which the company automatically takes a proportion of their wage each month and saves it for them until November, they'll jump at it.

Plus, savings accrue interest, so whilst you're saving money on behalf of your employees, you can also get a nice little kick-back from the bank.

Cushion the Christmas crunch

Thefestive season can be a great time for small businesses[hyperlink to Christmas business savings infographic] -spirits are high, and it's a fantastic opportunity for employees to bond. However, it's also the time of year when finances are most likely to be squeezed to their full potential, andforSMEs who don't have decent levels of working capital can find themselves in difficulty.

Love it or hate it, the fact is that Christmas slows everything down - particularly in business. Debtors can be slow to pay, and the two-week down-time either side of Christmas day means that a) valuable chargeable time is lost from the month, and b) the standard 30 day payment terms on invoices can be difficult to apply.

Realistic forecasting well in advance and committing just a small amount of money each month to a dedicated savings account can make all the difference, as it will just help you to keep the cogs turning over the festive period.

Alternatively, business finance solutions like invoice financing- by which your invoices are sold to a lender for a percentage of its full value - can also be invaluable to oiling the wheels of your balance sheet just when you need it.

Prepare to party

Quite simply, the longer you leave the planning of your yuletide festivities, the more expensive they will be. Whilst we don't advocate attempting to book next year's Christmas party this far in advance, what we do think is that putting aside little and often, and keeping an ear to the ground for this year's up-and-coming venues so you can get in there early when the time comes, will all help to get the biggest bang for your buck in the long term.

Remember, as long as the annual cost of the Christmas do is kept under £150 a head, there will be no taxable Benefit in Kind for the employees, either.

Capitalise on seasonal sales

Ok, this last one doesn't apply to all SMEs but for some businesses - particularly in the consumer e-commerce sector -Christmas signals a sales uplift. So why should y,ou be preparing for it now, at least 9 months before festivities start up again? Well, as discussed, saving little and often is one of the most effective ways to make sure provisions are available when needed.

To really take advantage of the seasonal rush, it might be necessary to carry out some proactive marking activity or general housekeeping nearer the time, to keep operations running as smoothly as possible. It might also be necessary to add special stock lines, like personalised items and seasonal gift-sets.

All this comes at a cost, and having a bit of money behind any seasonal ventures to keep cash flow running as smoothly as possible is always advisable. The earlier you start saving, the more flexibility you'll have when the time comes.

Though we're all mince-pied out and sick of the sound of Mariah, preparing,at least financially,well in advance of the festive season can really relieve the pressure of the Christmas Crunch when it comes around, once again, far earlier than expected.


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