How are your Christmas preparations going? Ocado slot booked? Decided on turkey or goose? Written all your Christmas cards? Nah – me either.... too busy planning for the commercial side of Christmas.

Christmas of course doesn’t start in December. With the retailers it has already started, with seasonal favourites already on display to tempt us into an early purchase and early consumption. If you exist in the world of FMCG and have seasonal brands, you’re probably head-down in a spreadsheet right now. What’s selling? Is it to forecast? Was the forecast phased right and will Christmas come late this year? For which you have my sympathies, and I keep my fingers crossed for you that Christmas is everything you planned all those months ago.

So, Christmas 2014’s done and dusted then? We hope for ROS, and, bar last-minute price cuts, there’s not much you can do except ensure your customers take their forecast and hope not to clear it in January. However, now’s the time to start planning for Christmas 2015. Sell ins will be in Q1 2015, with lockdown not that much afterwards.

Here are our top tips for a commercially successful Christmas – next year...

• Firstly a clear analysis of 2014. What worked, what didn’t? Commercials are part of it, but consider qualitative research, talking to shoppers and finding out what they thought, what they noticed in store, what they didn’t. Did your brand stand out? Did they see your display? Did it stop them? Did they buy the product? It’s not too late to set up test and control cells – different displays, different location. You will learn a huge amount from this year to deliver a compelling sell next year.

• Your products are already in the plan, they look fantastic, taste fantastic and are bedecked in holly. Wonderful! But do you have the insights to back them up? What’s the consumer need and the shopper barrier. Does your packaging and your POS/ promotional programme back this up? The trade is getting more and more savvy. Manufacturers with cool products, clear shopper and consumer benefits win the support. Ensure you have this insight BEFORE sell.

• Consider your support package. How will you talk to your shopper? Displays? Online? Magazine? Sampling? Becoming part of retailer owned programmes? What key messages do you need to get across? Is a glittery display what it takes or do you need to be really forensic about your messaging?

• Wow the trade. A little glitter goes a long way. So many festive lines are launched, how do you persuade the trade to pick yours? A superb sell goes a long way to grabbing hearts and minds. We’ve heard tell of a Christmas procession involving fake snow, and an illustrated children’s story with trade messages written in bespoke for a retailer [actually Corporate Innovations did that one and we’re kinda proud of it]. A ‘large northern retailer’ is likely to do a 5 minute style super-pitch where innovative means of selling product win the day. Think about this now as invitations come with little notice.

• Are you grocery only or impulse too? How do you get your product to the independent marketplace? What’s your push-pull strategy and its execution?

• The last 30 yards. From warehouse to shelf. Do you need a field sales force? Does a team from head office need to get out to merchandise the product? It could be a great team bonding event. Plan for resource now rather than attempt to secure it later.

Cover all these things off, from analysis to sell to execution, and you may see your way to a Christmas bonus... If any of this has sparked an interest, or you’d like to discuss more with Corporate Innovations, pick up the phone.

Let’s collaborate over coffee and a cheeky mince pie. Could be the most profitable coffee you’ve ever had!