Guides and reports

How to master peak season: Advice from the experts

Discover top tips for the busiest retail period of the year from leading brands including Fat Face, Hamleys and Molton Brown.

1 November, 2022
 ·  7 minutes
Man serving customers

Every year summer turns into autumn, and every year we wince upon hearing Christmas music in shops too early. ‘It’s only October!’ we mutter.

Traditionally of course, that music would herald a season of celebration, indulgence and (of course) shopping. But events have continued to unfold since early 2020, turning everyday life on its head. The pandemic stopped us from doing the things we love; today we’re faced with soaring energy bills, rising interest rates, and a looming recession. We’ve all had to make some adjustments.

Retailers too have had to adapt, especially when it comes to peak season - which according toour researchis ‘make or break’ for 53% of UK businesses. It’s led to brands thinking outside the box when it comes to planning and executing the busiest time of the retail calendar,including bringing the whole season forward.

To help retailers navigate the choppy waters of peak season 2022, we spoke to some of our high-performing retail customers, including Molton Brown and Fat Face and transformed their pearls of wisdom into a new guide:Peak Performers. Here's a quick summary of the key points.

Peak season is make or break for 53% of UK businesses.

Stronger together

The importance of collaboration before, during, and after peak came up a lot during discussions with our contributing retailers. Not only does it benefit your business to share plans internally, but external stakeholders such as suppliers should also be kept in the loop to ensure smooth sailing. Retail Analyst at Molton Brown, Simon Binney, prioritises transparency:

“We ask vendors to give escalation procedures. Some also provide us with dashboards or other tracking capabilities. We then share that information with the wider business to say: 'This is what we are doing to prepare the infrastructure for a peak period based on the estimated sales.'”

With external partners you must be clear on where ownership and accountability lies, and understand who your allocated team and points of contact will be. Meanwhile, internally working together across teams and departments leads to a steady supply chain, with The Conran Shop planning meticulously to anticipate what customers will want. Richard Voyce, Director of Technology, said:

“For us, it starts with product. This is led by the buying and merchandising teams who ensure we've got sufficient coverage and enough stock. We want to be sure we’ve got the right kind of products along the right trends.”

Boost performance through payments

You’ve invested a lot to get your customers to this point of payment, so it’s vital you don’t fall at the final hurdle with a poor experience. Being able to offer popular payment methods is a quick way to improve performance by boosting conversion rates and ensuring seamless sales, since every customer can pay how they want. This is especially needed for digital sales, as Shahid Mohamed, Programme Manager at Hamleys London recognises:

“Online purely is about making that sale. That was the biggest room for extension for us from a pretty basic shop, with a limited amount of products to one that's expanding massively. Things like enabling Klarna, Apple Pay, Google Pay… That has been absolutely key.”

The rightpayment terminalsplay a vital role in busting in-store (and around the block) queues during sales. Mobile point of sale (mPOS) was praised by the brands we spoke with, for not only enabling freedom for staff and customers but its ability to do so much from just one hand-held device. Molton Brown’s Simon says:

“I believe mobile point of sale will do far better than the standalone units, mainly because of the feedback I've received from cashiers in the store. The ability for us to integrate this into one single solution while keeping it simple for the store staff is really going to drive this initiative.”

“I believe mobile point of sale will do far better than the standalone units, mainly because of the feedback I've received from cashiers in the store."

Simon BinneyRetail Analyst

Adyen understands the importance of being flexible and acting in the moment. Not only do we offer the Android all-in-one terminal - enabling staff to check orders, manage inventory and process payments from the palm of their hand, but we have also created ourown terminals. Designed through collaboration with our customers around the world, the AMS1 and NYC1 support mobile customer journeys at an affordable cost and with a powerful battery.

Keep fraud at the forefront

Fraud is a risk all year round, but the threat is heightened during peak. With 26% of businesses we surveyed admitting they’d fallen victim to fraud or data leaks during this time, choosing a payments provider that offers ongoing protection is critical. FatFace monitors and adjusts its fraud rules throughout the year as well as regular real-time checks, as Liam Price, Head of Digital, explained:

"We're always optimising and we're always testing so it's not a peak-specific problem for us. On top of that, a diversified payment mix, with the likes of Klarna growing in popularity, means we can mitigate some risk still further. But we continue to monitor with daily manual checks.”

Ricard at The Conran Shop stresses not to leave fraud protection “too late” and urges businesses to use their historical data to “help inform good choices”. The right PSP will give you all the insights you need, as well as carrying out regular analysis on your behalf and share suggestions based on findings - something that gives Hamley’s Mohamed piece of mind:

“Because of the way everything's integrated, I don’t see fraud being an issue. We have the ability to refine settings if we wish. We previously did a big piece on our fraud set up and we leveraged Adyen’s knowledge of ecommerce and other comparable retailers. They said: ‘Look, we think these configurations will be best for you.’ And so far it’s proved to be true.”

Always put your customers first

Customers should be at the forefront of what you do all year round, whether it’s giving them the best end-to-end experience or adjusting your priorities based on their criteria. That said, the current climate has many people rethinking the way they spend, and brands need to be mindful of this. Adapting to changes in circumstances, environment and costs doesn't mean an entire overhaul of your peak strategy; you just need to be ready to pivot, as Liam from FatFace notes:

"You need to be more flexible with your promotion calendar. Where you might have historically done blanket discounts, you should retain the flexibility to target discounts based on different customer segments. While it's going be tough for everyone, it's going to be even tougher for some.”

Man serving customer in store

Despite this, people are still keen to give back through the companies they choose to shop with. Ourlatest researchfound that 63% of consumers believe brands have a responsibility to ensure their stock is ethically sourced and produced while 43% prefer brands that stand up for causes they believe in. And 26% want to donateto good causes whilethey’re paying. Many retailers support charities all year round, but with the boost in sales during peark, this makes it a great period to really ramp up the giving:

"Our products are designed for life; they're designed to be handed over to the next generation," shares Richard from The Conran Shop. "We teamed up with the British Heart Foundation who will take away items that you may be looking to replace. They can then resell these items and put the funds towards the charity. And, since furniture sales tend to happen during peak periods, it's a really good time to give something back.”

Find the right tech partners to succeed

To get the most out of peak season and add value to your business every day of every month, picking the right technology partners makes a big difference. Even better, finding a trusted partner that covers all areas means less complications, contracts, and time spent navigating them all, giving you more focus on delivering the best customer experiences.

Peak Performers Guide

Discover more expert advice from our retail customers and how Adyen can help you navigate peak season.

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