Valentine’s Day: How small businesses can prepare for the busiest days in their calendar

The impending anniversary of St Valentine is a chance for people to show how much they and value that special person in their lives – and a time when consumer demand for products such as chocolates and flowers spikes.

SMEs around the country have been busy preparing for the romantic holiday on January 14 in a bid to shares in the millions that Australians spend on flowers and chocolates each year.

Flower retailing in Australia was worth an estimated $716.6 million last year while the specialty chocolates sector is worth a cool $307.5 million, according to research by IBISWorld.

Sherpa is a new Uber-style courier service operating in major cities across Australia and the business is anticipating 3000 flower deliveries will be made using its service between February 12 and 14.

The startup, which allows members of the public to use their own vehicles to make deliveries within 10km of a central business district, estimates 30% of its deliveries are for flowers alone.

Sherpa co-founder Ben Nowlan said in a statement the fact Sherpa delivers seven days a week will also give it an edge this Valentine’s Day.

“We’ve built up a fantastic relationship with florists all over the country … some of our drivers are earning their income almost entirely from deliveries from local florists, which must make it one of the best jobs around,” he said.

“With Valentine’s Day falling on Sunday this year, we are calling on all of our drivers to be prepared to put in extra hours to meet the increased demand in weekend deliveries.”

Man with roses

Another popular choice for Valentine’s Day is chocolates, with Noosa Chocolate Factory co-founder Chris Thomson bracing for a hectic weekend of trade.

“[We’ve been preparing since] probably mid-December last year and the reason for that is we need to select our chocolate moulds in time and come up with a Valentine’s Day campaign a couple of months ahead,” Thomson told SmartCompany this morning.

“The actual chocolate is only made two weeks ahead to ensure it’s as fresh as possible.”

This Valentine’s Day Noosa Chocolate Factory will be stocking 1000 hand moulded and hand painted chocolate hearts  – with each taking a painstaking 16 minutes to make.

Chocolate Hearts

“You want to make sure you’ve sold them all before Sunday, they’re very low margin with the work that goes into each product,” Thomson says.

“You always hope that when someone comes in to purchase a few hearts that they purchase more from our regular lines.”

Thomson says Valentine’s Day is a big event for his business, almost as big as Easter, and being organised for the events is crucial.


Thomson’s top tips for businesses to prepare for times of high demand:


1. Be organised

For Thomson, preparing for a peak trading time takes around two weeks of planning what products are going to be made for any event, from which promotional marketing is decided upon.

“Before every event we team up with a local business designer so that marketing materials can be done… the designer we had for this Valentine’s Day did some quirky eye catching designs for our little gift cards,” he says.


2. Forecast sales

Anticipating the your business’ sales levels to avoid having a stock surplus is crucial, Thomson says.

“With chocolate you obviously don’t want to make too much, you need to read how busy it’s going to be,” Thomson says.

This is especially the case with chocolate Valentine’s Hearts, which Thomson says are not going to sell well after February 14 has gone.

“But no matter how much we make, every year we almost sell out anyway,” he says.


3. Consider extending trading hours

Thomson has extended trading hours at each of his four retail stores, keeping them open until 8pm every night this week, except Sunday when they will close at 6pm.

He anticipates the final two hours before trading closes on Sunday will be extremely busy for sales, potentially bigger than any other year due to Valentine’s falling on a Sunday.


4. Capitalise on the day

Like Sherpa, Noosa Chocolate Factory will be reaping the rewards of Valentine’s Day falling on a Sunday.

With most people finishing work on Friday afternoon, this will leave two days for them to buy their Valentine’s gifts, with Thomson expecting Saturday to be a busy day of trade.

Being available on the weekend also gives your business an edge over competitors who choose to close on Saturday and Sunday, he says.


Originally published on SmartCompany on February 12, 2016

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