In a straw poll on the My Business website, which ran from 22 October to 19 November 2018, business leaders were asked the question: “Are you expecting busier pre-Christmas trade this year than last year?”
Three-quarters (75.5 per cent) of respondents said no, their 2018 trade would not be busier than that seen last year.
Just 13.6 per cent expected to see sales growth this year, while just over one in 10 (10.9 per cent) were unsure.
It is a disappointing finding for Australian SMEs, given that the Christmas period tends to be the highest grossing period of the year.
New figures from payments company Square showed that in 2017, the final weekend of November accounted for the busiest trading days of the entire year. If replicated again this year, that makes this weekend (24-25 November) the busiest of the year for many businesses.
Square said that midday on Saturday, 25 November 2017 – exactly a month out from Christmas Day – saw the peak volume of transactions taking place.
Analysing payments data from this time last year, Square found that average turnover soared by 57 per cent for the month of November and reached its peak with a 73 per cent jump in December.
Interestingly, retail was not the industry to benefit most from the increased turnover in December. While the sector posted a hefty 106 per cent rise, the biggest increase was enjoyed by leisure and entertainment businesses, up by 159 per cent in December 2017.
The food and beverage industry saw turnover spike by 80 per cent, while beauty businesses increased their typical sales by 74 per cent.
“The holiday shopping rush is the busiest time of year for a lot of businesses, so these data insights are extremely valuable in helping them make better, more informed decisions about how to prepare inventory and marketing to maximise sales,” Square’s country manager and head of APAC, Ben Pfisterer, said.
Mr Pfisterer said that card transactions in particular provide businesses with a wealth of data that can help determine strategy and product mix, as well as insights into the success or failure of business marketing.
“Card payments carry a significant amount of useful data, so digital payments systems can now be used as a powerful reporting tool to see instantly what products are selling the best, the average spend per sale and the frequency of their customers,” he said.
As an example, Square provided a breakdown of peak transaction times in December comparing weekdays with weekends.
Transaction volumes peaked at midday on weekends, but during weekdays, this peak was delayed by an hour (to 1pm) – demonstrating differences in required staffing levels and when workers take lunch breaks to cater for this peak demand.