Santa Claus is coming to town

Christmas sales are the lifeblood of many retailers; a bad Christmas invariably means a bad year
Michael Blaney

IT may be only November and the dust may have barely settled on Halloween, but I fear that there is no escaping it now.

Tinned biscuits adorned with snowflakes have been lurking on the aisles for quite a while and turkey and cranberry sandwiches have been around for weeks. You can run, but you can’t hide – Christmas is coming.

Personally, the holiday season is best kept for December, but from a business perspective, especially for retailers, I know that isn’t possible.

Lead-in times, pre-ordering and customer demand mean that by the time November comes Christmas has already been anticipated for months. The time for planning is over, now is the time to start whetting the appetite of your customers.

Christmas sales are the lifeblood of many retailers; a bad Christmas invariably means a bad year.

Last year UK consumers spend £24 billion during the Christmas period with around 760 million presents changing hands.

Festive food sales in the two weeks before the big day will be in excess of £6bn as people treat themselves and their families to the year’s biggest gastronomic extravagance.

All this frenetic consumer activity can only happen if retailers have the stock in place to meet this spike in demand; and therein lies a potential pitfall for shop owners when it comes to insurance.

Regular readers of this column will not be unaware of the dangers of under-insurance.

It is the number one insurance issue which businesses overlook or miscalculate, and it’s as true for retailers as any other business sector.

If you are a retailer, take 10 minutes to review your shop's insurance policy before the Christmas pandemonium really takes off – it could make all the difference between a great and disastrous year.

A good insurance policy will include a seasonality clause that covers the value of stock held at peak times, but not every shop's policy is so designed.

Sadly, the season of goodwill to all mankind is not universally celebrated and all those well stocked shelves and storerooms mean that Christmas is also a time of opportunity for thieves and shoplifters.

In recent years it’s also brought a combination of monsoon-like rainfall (minus the warmth and humidity) and temperatures sometimes falling below freezing into double digits.

Prevention is always better than cure so in addition to checking your policy, review other aspects of the business. Are you weather proofed? What is the likelihood of flooding? How well is your stock stored? Is it secure? Are your pipes insulated? How can you minimise shoplifting? What plans do you have in place to get back trading as soon as possible should disaster strike?

Christmas 2016 should be a positive experience for retailers. Warnings over a collapse in consumer confidence following the Brexit vote have yet to materialise and, if anything, confidence and economic activity have been ticking upwards.

The depreciation in sterling has been a boon for UK exporters, but it’s also been a driver of cross-border traffic as consumers from the Republic of Ireland vote with their feet and their wallets in search of a bargain.

So please don’t let what could be an excellent Christmas become one to forget because your business was under-insured. Santa Claus is coming to town you know – and even he’s making a list and checking it twice.

:: Michael Blaney is managing director of Autoline Insurance Group (


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