Five small businesses, five recipes for festive success

Estimated reading time: 2:30 minutes

The festive season can feel challenging for the small business owner, as department stores and retail giants launch multi-million pound campaigns and Black Friday sales. But if there’s one thing the big players can’t offer, it’s that rewarding feeling that comes from shopping small, local, boutique and unique.

With a bit of inspiration, creativity and resourcefulness, Christmas is when small businesses can truly come into their own – as these five owners shared with us.

1) Feel-good factor

Emma Nissim Designs

As a brand that defines itself as ‘Fun, Alive, Fresh’, feel-good factor is woven right into the fabric of Emma Nissim Designs. From their soft, organic materials to their positive energy and eco-conscious values, co-owners and sisters Emma and Rachael are passionate about sharing the feel-good factor and giving people a unique, rewarding experience.

Connecting with the community

For the last few years the duo have invited friends, customers and fellow business owners into Rachael’s Greenwich home, which they’ve converted into their own VIP Christmas fair complete with mince pies, prosecco and the chance to shop for gifts in a welcoming, stress-free environment. They’ve also teamed up with a local Pilates studio to run a community yoga event, while Emma has shared her artistic skills in an inspiring silkscreen-printing workshop – both raising funds for charity.

As well as being personally rewarding and connecting with the community, collaborating with complementary businesses has been a great way to sell products, spread the word and strengthen the Emma Nissim brand during the festive season.

“We love what we do and we’ve found that sharing our passion and connecting with people in an authentic way has really helped us grow.”

Eco-conscious gifting

With a vision to “create high quality, effortlessly stylish garments through sustainable production and socially positive actions,” all the brand’s products are made from responsibly sourced materials, using green, ethical processes – including Emma’s own hand-printing – and 50p from every item goes towards protecting rainforests through their partnership with the World Land Trust.

“We care about the planet and want to inspire people to make good choices. When people wear our clothes, it’s a way of showing they care too,” explains Rachael.

Finding the feel-good factor in your products, whether it’s the fact that they’re eco-friendly, locally sourced or handmade, is a rewarding way to enhance their gift-worthiness and bring added delight to your customers and their loved ones.

2) Know thy cus-toe-mer

ChattyFeet

Fun, quirky and original, ChattyFeet draws inspiration from artists, scientists and film characters to create colourful socks, with hilarious personas such as ‘Sole-Adore Dali’ and ‘Albert Einstoe’. London-based founders Gil Kahana and Humberto de Sousa feel socks are a great way to express your personality with humour. They aim to make people smile, since there are “not enough funny moments as you grow up!”

Finding your feet

With fantastic gift potential, the festive season is an important time of year for ChattyFeet. However, having a novelty product makes reaching the right customers (and ultimately the right feet) all the more essential. The brand aims to target gift shoppers who are interested in art and science, enjoy humour, design and colours and are looking for something unique and funny to buy loved ones. Whether it’s identifying the right physical shops to display their products in – such as the Tate Modern and The Science Museum – or finding customers online based on interests; targeting the right audience is key to ChattyFeet’s success over the festive season.

Simply put: if you place your products in front of the right people, they’re far more likely to sell.

Black Friday humour

With a knack for putting a clever spin on things, Chatty Feet decided to run an amusing Black Friday ‘Sail’ campaign in humorous rebellion of the ever-popular discount day. Inviting people to share the statement, “I’d rather ‘sail’ than shop sales,” they then donated £1 to Oxfam for each tweet – preferring to support a charity than succumb to the growing retail trend. Many businesses are now taking part in these events; but if heavy discounting doesn’t feel right for you, taking an alternative approach can be a light-hearted way to opt out of the frenzy while expressing your brand’s unique personality.

3) Social media sparkle

Shoes by Shaherazad

Also in the foot-adorning business, but on the luxury end of the scale, Shoes by Shaherazad certainly get busy at Christmas with 90% of their marketing activities taking place around this time. But by using digital channels only and applying some creative flair, owner Shaherazad Umbreen manages to keep marketing costs to a minimum while still sending free “shoellery” (sparkly shoe jewellery) gifts to surprise and delight her customers.

Last year Shaherazad also shared sparkle through her social media campaigns across Facebook and Twitter, helping boost Christmas sales as well as building long-term customer loyalty.

Let’s play #hashtag

Shaherazad came up with the #mistletoekissesguaranteed hashtag to target those in search of an extra special gift for their wives, girlfriends or partners. Her alternative, “I would love these heels for Christmas, #husbanddidyouhear” directly targeted the ladies, encouraging them to use the strapline to drop hints to their other halves.

Using playful humour and hashtags during the busy gifting season was a great way to stand out and express the confident, sassy character of Shoes by Shaherazad, which gives all its proceeds to projects that help empower disadvantaged women.

Mingle all the way

By monitoring social media discussions with the right people, Shaherazad also found she was able to take part in conversations she could then turn towards her business. For example, if she saw someone on Twitter asking advice on what to get their partner for Christmas, she might respond by saying they could check their partner’s shoe size as a cheeky hint to browse her collection.

The festive season is the perfect time to get a little creative on social media. Shaherezad has gained many repeat customers from her Christmas activities, making her efforts worthwhile well beyond into the New Year.

4) The personal touch

Dotty about Paper

With an emphasis on providing amazing customer service and a personal touch, stationery brand Dotty About Paper sees the festive season as a perfect time to strengthen their relationships with customers. “Christmas is a very important time of year for us. Not only do we plan social media activity and design new greeting cards, we also find it’s an excellent chance to explore inspiring promotional ideas to engage with customers,” says Director Lisa Forde.

Making “thank you” count

We all love to feel appreciated. And while blanket thank-yous from big companies may miss the meaningful mark, a personal message from a small business feels all the more heart-felt and genuine. Dotty About Paper send personalised cards and also reward their most loyal and high-value customers with a gift of their own choosing. “We’re passionate about looking after our customers so we want to thank them for their continued support, which builds up our relationship and motivates them to keep coming back.”

An advent calendar for all seasons

Keen to experiment with different techniques, Lisa also ran an online advent calendar with a new special offer every day – such as discounts on birthday invitations or wedding stationery – to target different customers. Though based on a Christmas tradition, this is an effective technique for boosting sales of non-festive products as people plan for special occasions in the year ahead.

5) Proof in the pudding

Letter Box Hamper

Based in Cornwall, Letter Box Hamper specialises in creating luxury hampers with carefully selected British-made produce, which – as the name suggests – fit comfortably through a letter box. Ideal for those living far away from their relatives, the practical format combined with nostalgic wrapping using traditional stamps and twine, makes for a charming gift for one’s farthest and dearest.

Although the hampers sell well year-round, Christmas is an important time for the company. As well as tailoring his social media activity for the season, one of owner Jonathan’s key festive strategies is attending events.

Food markets and fairs

Letter Box Hamper has enjoyed online success both on its own site and through ecommerce platforms such as Not on the High Street. But there’s nothing quite like getting face to face with customers to let them sample the goods and offer valuable feedback and insights. Attending food markets and fairs has helped raise awareness and boost sales for Letter Box Hamper. They’ve also been a great opportunity for Jonathan to meet with suppliers and do some of his own sampling to discover more hamper-worthy products.

For online businesses, having a physical presence at Christmas can be hugely rewarding and with so many events taking place, there are plenty of opportunities to get out there.

The best ideas don’t always come from the biggest budgets. As a small business, simply by knowing your niche, connecting with customers and putting some creative energy into your marketing, you can make sure your brand will stand out and be remembered this festive season – and beyond.

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