“What to do about January?”

08 January 2020, 09:59 am
Expert Eye by John Shepherd

After December, the busiest month of the year at nearly 12% of our annual takings, comes the stark reality of January at just over 7% of our takings.

The party’s over. 31 days of low sales, bad weather and detox diets lie ahead with not a daffodil in sight. Plus the potential embarrassment of selling products that have been over ordered – or so I am told! As for strategic rethinks we’ve had a few – but then again too few to mention. And the shop has recently had a messy divorce from collective New Year Resolutions. However, January may not be as bad as intuition might suggest. For a start it is not the quietest month of the year for us. It was in 2019 and it was in 2014, but generally it sits ahead of ‘diminutive’ February and ‘currently on annual leave’ August in terms of sales.

The real problem with January is that it takes a week for the shop to get out of bed following the Christmas hangover and searing reality of stock taking. Once up and running there is nothing much to quicken the pulse of the paying public in retailing terms. In America they seem to approach the problem with large quantities of zest and zing. I recently saw a calendar of events from the US with a plethora of retailing opportunities. For example January 7th is I Am Not Going To Take It Any More Day. (We’ve had a few of those in Partridges, to be honest). January 14th is Dress Up Your Pet Day, and January 24th is National Compliment Day, which the UK should embrace immediately. American foodies have been no slouches in this area either. January 11th is National Milk Day, January 12th is Hot Tea Day, January 23rd is National Pie Day, January 25th is Gourmet Coffee Day and January 27th is Chocolate Cake Day. I have no idea how successful any of these days are but retailers are not taking January lying down.

Is there anything we can come up with to gently engage the emotions and mental palates of customers at the beginning of the year? January 3rd is JRR Tolkien’s birthday and, although too early for serious campaigns, might it inspire January to become Fictional Foods month, where we try to imitate imaginary literary creations? After all, the great man himself ‘invented’ a lot of foods – for example lembas, a bread wrapped in leaves, made of banana, coconut and maple syrup. He also invented cram, miruvor, honey cake and a vitality drink called orc. Roald Dahl came up with frobscottle and snozberries, C.S. Lewis toffee tree fruit, Ian Fleming toot sweets and JK Rowling cauldron cakes and butter beer. Lisa Simpson came up with soy pops. Like so many things, the Greeks had a word for it: Ambrosia – the mythical food or drink of the Gods. Although some restaurateurs, including Heston Blumenthal, have experimented with the concept, it is probably too obscure, too difficult and too litigious to go down this route for a January speciality food initiative. The first priority is always non fictional profit. However, if anybody can come up with an engaging January campaign please do not hesitate to let me know.

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