Are you ready for Christmas?

Christmas presents

OK, I know, it is September, and I am talking about Christmas. Sorry for bringing it up so early. Even if you are not Christian and don’t celebrate Christmas, late December is still an important time of the year for businesses. It’s the traditional time when people hand out business gifts or ask their clients out for an annual “thank you” lunch. But this year is going to be different.

You won’t be able to have an office party, because of social distancing rules. You might not even be able to have lunchtime “do” because you probably won’t be able to have over six people at the event. That means you are probably going to need to fit in more “one-to-one” thank you lunches for your clients. So that could mean you need to organise them now if you are going to have a lot to fit in before the end of the year.

Business gifts are going to be another problem. Many of them come from China, and distribution routes are slower than usual. And that’s before you factor in the impending end-of-year chaos at our ports that will be inevitable because of Brexit. We need to be ordering our business gifts now, not in November as often happens.

Online stores already warn that they may not cope in the run-up to Christmas. Last year the amount of online shopping in the festive season was a record. But that record is less than half the volume of sales which Internet shops are seeing at the moment. In the coming months, that amount is going to rise, putting tremendous strain on the logistics system, and the creaking Internet infrastructure.

Inevitably, in the run-up to Christmas, things will collapse online. Whether that’s websites unable to cope with the loads, supply chains breaking down because of demand, or the delivery network becoming overwhelmed, something is bound to happen.

But what about the situation looked at from your customers’ perspective? You may well have problems organising the annual “thank you” or buying gifts. Your customers will be in the same position if your Internet systems are not in tip-top condition.

Can your web hosting company cope with the increasing traffic demands? It might not be your website that’s a problem. But if your hosting firm looks after the website of a major online store or two, they could suck up all the capacity, pushing you into oblivion which will not be good for your trade.

Is your own website resilient? Can the functions work when the demand is high? Remember, people give up on websites if they don’t function within two seconds. If you are using systems and software that take a while to load, that’s going to be an issue as the web traffic rises to exponential levels in the coming months.

True, this has always been a problem towards the Christmas period, but this year is different. The COVID impact will be significant as more and more people work and shop from home.

If you sell things from your website, have you got enough stock? It’s no good seeing all those extra orders coming in during the early part of December if you can’t supply them. The entire logistics network is under strain even now, so if you operate under “just in time” rules you could well already be running out of time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to create a sense of panic. Rather, I think we should all ensure that we are planned well for the impending issues. There are bound to be Internet glitches in the run-up to Christmas this year. The question is, how well planned are you for those inevitable problems? You could already be too late.

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