Christmas means different things to different people, businesses and other organisations. For many, it can be extremely busy – a time to maximise sales. For others, things are much less hectic, but that doesn’t mean time can’t be put to good use.
We asked three small-businesses and a local RSPCA volunteer what Christmas is likely to bring this year and what they’re looking forward to most from a personal point of view…
Captain Fawcett Limited
Richard Finney is the owner of (and assistant to Edwardian gent) Captain Fawcett, Norfolk-based maker and supplier of “a simply delectable range of first-class gentleman’s grooming requisites”.
“In the run-up to Christmas, we get a 50 per cent increase in direct online sales. We also sell via department stores, including Selfridges and Harvey Nics, as well as wholesale into 48 countries and via a distribution network that spans 18 countries. Almost half of our sales are into other European countries, and these too spike in November and December.
“We still make most of our consumable products, so we have three people constantly making our moustache waxes, beard oils and balms. We source some of our bottles, hardware, razors, brushes and wash bags from overseas, and there’s a three-month lead-in time for supply, so that must be taken into account. Our stock orders are based on the previous year’s sales, plus, say 10 per cent.
“We take on temporary staff for our packing room at this time of year and work weekends to meet our production targets. My working day usually starts at 5am; I do a couple of hours at home, then come into our premises for 7am and I’m usually here until seven or eight most days. It’s crazy for us at this time of year.
“Seven years ago, the UK male grooming market was worth about £865m, but now it’s worth £1.6bn. It’s a hugely competitive market. Running the business requires a lot of hard work and I’m 60 years old now, but I love what I do and Captain Fawcett has really grown. Three years ago I was running the business from my kitchen, but now it generates a wage for 13 people.
“I’m looking forward to spending Christmas Day with my wife and son at home, we’re having goose this year. I’ll be up before anyone else – I just love mornings. But we’ll be getting orders on Christmas Day and I’ll be back in work on the 27th. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, but, to be honest, I didn’t really do any proper work until I was 30 [laughs] – I got away with it until then.”
Ellie Lines is a former fashion stylist, designer and owner of her eponymous London-based British luxury dress label.
“In terms of sales, the run-up to Christmas isn’t the busiest time of year for my business. I still make some sales, but not as many as from spring through to late autumn. But being less busy gives me time to catch up on admin stuff, update my website, review stock and plan for the spring and summer.
“I get more thinking time, too, so I can not only consider the big picture and how to take my business forward, but I also work on new collections, so I’m still pretty busy. I like having that time to design closer to when my new dresses will be available, whereas previously it might have been six or nine months in advance.
“I’ll probably carry on working until 22 December. When you run your own business you never totally switch off, but I’m really looking forward to having time off between Christmas and New Year, although Christmas Eve is my favourite day. I’m looking forward to seeing friends and family; I’ll be doing a fair bit of travelling over Christmas.”
Christy Waterfall is a freelance professional make-up artist covering Bath, Bristol, Wiltshire and the Cotswolds.
“As a Bath-based bridal make-up artist, Christmas is often slightly quieter, with fewer weddings than in summer, but party make-up bookings and providing make-up lessons keep me busy and doing what I love. Make-up lessons offer a great opportunity to learn new techniques and discover delightful new products to add to customer Christmas present wish lists.
“Because I’m less busy, Christmas gives me time to re-charge my batteries, catch up with friends and family and plan for next year. When things are quieter I like to get everything up to date, making sure that that new photographic content from weddings I’ve done is uploaded to my website, so potential new clients can see it. It’s also a time to plan any training I’d like to book for myself. I’m always eager to learn more; it’s so important to stay inspired, so I can offer the very best service to my clients.”
Heather Cain is a volunteer for RSPCA Stourbridge and District Branch, which re-homes rescue cats, dogs and small animals in the Stourbridge area.
“Christmas is a funny time for rescue. It can be busy for us, because people who’ve been looking after stray cats suddenly begin to worry about them with the weather turning cold or because they’re going away for the holidays. But it can be slow as regards re-homing animals, because people are more focused on family, friends and celebrating Christmas.
“Some rescues don’t re-home Christmas at all. We do, but not to households where lots of people will be coming and going. Rescue cats need peace, quiet and time to settle. We don’t make any special preparations for Christmas time; we’re all volunteers who have to fit our rescue work around our full-time jobs and families anyway, so it’s really just business as usual for us.
“Our main challenge is having enough space to bring cats into our care. Good foster homes are hard to find and so with limited space, it’s always a juggling act, but we put ill, injured or stray cats above those whose current owners want or need to re-home their cat.
“Personally, what will I be looking forward to most this Christmas? It won’t be a good rest – there’s no such thing when you’re involved in rescue. And because I foster cats, I can’t go on holiday. But it’s nice to be able to spend time with family and not have to worry about going into work. Life seems a little easier over Christmas – apart from having to cook the Christmas lunch!”