Over time, the Easter period has proven to be one of the most lucrative times of the year for retailers. According to Stats SA, retail trade sales surged by just under 8% in January 2022 compared to the previous year, demonstrating that the industry is showing signs of recovery after it took a substantial hit brought on by the pandemic. For small businesses, the Easter long weekend presents a golden opportunity to cash in on consumers’ enthusiasm to spend more.
This is the opinion of Rene Botha, Area Manager at Business Partners Limited – a South African specialist financier for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). As she continues: “Traditionally, we know that Easter is a busy time for retail. This is predominantly due to festivities around the long weekend, but also because of the timely advent of children either going on break or going back to school and the increase in end-of-season sales and promotions that the Easter period has become associated with. SMEs in the retail space can take advantage of this period by acting decisively and strategically.”
The Retail Trade Sales January 2022 report by Stats SA showed that the retailers who benefited the most from this surge in sales included the textile, clothing, footwear and leather goods industries. Significant advances were seen in the pharmaceuticals, medical goods, cosmetics, and toiletries sectors as well as in food, beverages and tobacco – which coincides with the inclination of South Africans to spend more on dining and entertainment over this period.
Botha provides the following tips for South African SME retailers to make the most of this busy period:
- Take a holistic approach to the Easter holidays
For a big proportion of the South African consumer base, the long weekend in April is associated with Easter – traditionally a holiday where Easter eggs and treats are given as gifts. Like Christmas, Easter is celebrated by giving, which gives retailers the unique opportunity to broaden their view on how this can be leveraged to impact sales.
As Botha expands: “Small businesses who are struggling to find ways to retrofit their offering to suit the traditional Easter period could take a more secular and inclusive approach to the holiday period, and the drive towards generosity and goodwill. Small business owners could, for example give away free product samples or product experiences like hand massages. They could brand these giveaways and experiences as gifts that celebrate the long weekend, the chance to relax and unwind, an excuse to spoil yourself, a way to break your fast during the month of Ramadan (for Muslim shoppers), or even as a preparation for the beginning of winter . There are a number of ways to brand your offering that go above and beyond traditional Easter messaging. It’s important for small businesses to capitalise on these niche opportunities in an environment where large retailers will be focusing predominantly on Easter.”
- Focus on enhancing the customer experience
Easter is a peak trading season for retailers across the board. Both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores can expect bigger footfall or unique visitors, more products and service enquiries, and a higher volume in returns and exchanges. It is therefore vitally important to prioritise customer service over this period.
“Remember that as a small business, Easter can be your opportunity to set the pace in terms of sales for the rest of the year. Too many retailers focus almost exclusively on the instant gratification that comes along with the surge in sales. However, sustaining your small business means thinking about the long-term – going beyond the long weekend and finding ways to offer a customer experience that is memorable and conducive to repeat sales. Before the shopping rush begins, ensure that your team is trained and acutely aware that they will be dealing with higher sales volumes. You could also employ extra assistance during this time to manage aspects like complaints, questions and after-sales service,” suggests Botha.
With this year being the first year in which lockdown regulations have been relaxed since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, consumers are ready to spend. They are, however, more price-sensitive, with many consumers being more succinctly aware of the importance of proper financial management and budgeting. As a small business, you can find ways to address this pain point by adding value.
“Shoppers this Easter will be looking for value that goes beyond the quality of products and services. Small businesses in particular, are faced with the challenge of not only ensuring that they deliver what they say will, but to deliver something that goes above and beyond the usual offering. This could mean offering free delivery during this period or bundled deals that discount specific groups of products. If you are a small business in the interior design space, for example, you could offer free installment or a free design consultation service. Find ways to add value that won’t detract from your bottom-line and use this as a way to differentiate yourself during this busy time,” concludes Botha.