We may be in the middle of peak holiday season, but it’s currently prime time for retailers to start planning their campaigns for Christmas and January. No matter what category you’re in, whether you trade online or on the High Street, the festive period provides one of the most lucrative times of the year for retailers.

It’s important to get it right and beginning early can help you to get ahead. We’ve already started the ball rolling with our clients, so where do you begin?

Competitor retailer activity and consumer behavior for Christmas 2012, combined with your own learnings will help determine the focus for this year.

Last year official figures from the Office of National Statistics showed the slowest annual growth rate for a December since 1998 – barring 2010 when heavy snow deterred shoppers. And there was a raft of High Street casualties early in the year.

For 2013 we can feel a little more assured. The impact of the recession has been so prolonged that people are starting to slip back into normal spending habits even if times are hard – and the January sales provides the perfect excuse to shop!

The economic climate is starting to look less gloomy and there are some genuine signs of recovery in retail; consumer confidence is slowly returning – we’ve just enjoyed the third consecutive month in which retail figures have improved.

For some years the January sales have been a misnomer. What used to start in January moved to Boxing Day, and now in some cases we see online previews and discounts offered on Christmas Eve, with full-blown sales kicking in on Christmas Day. Make sure that you benefit from the extra trading hours, reeling in bargain hunters early!

Retailers with a good online offering fared better last year than those who put all of their focus on High Street stores. With the proliferation of mobile technology, it’s essential that retailers ensure their website is optimised for tablets and smartphones, that they have a good mobile website or even a scaling cross-platform site.

The weather also plays a role in how people shop and although we can’t rely on the weatherman, having a contingency plan in place for snow and ice that may deter shoppers from the High Street can be a safeguard.

One of the biggest challenges retailers face with Christmas and January campaigns is beating the competition. Remember that shoppers base some of their decision on price, but not all – can you provide extra value with exceptional customer service? Or offer an additional reason for shopping instore such as treats for the kids to make mum’s life easier? Or additional incentives like exclusive classes or celebrity ‘how-to’ sessions?

Think big, think brave and above all be patient – last minute shopping still plays a big part in many a bargain hunter’s ritual.

We are working with our clients now on campaigns for Christmas and January. If you need support talk to us now, don’t leave it until later in the year to get ahead.