Advintage is one of New Zealand's largest online wine retailers. Every month it couriers thousands of cases of wines to customers nationwide. The company, which employs seven staff, has been in business since 1999 and operates out of a large wine retail warehouse in Havelock North.
Owner, John Macpherson (Mac) tells Gill South how he and his staff prepare for the Christmas season.
How do you prepare for the Christmas rush at Advintage?
The Christmas rush starts in early October for us. By that stage we have our first Christmas print campaigns in place for November release and we're deciding on the key lines we'll be promoting online in late November and December.
Champagne and sparkling deals are always key at this time of year but we need all bases covered - well-priced function wines, special occasion wines and specialist gift lines.
We need them all in volume and we need three extra staff to cope with increased sales and gift lines. The good thing is that everyone who works here loves the buzz of the Christmas season. If you work in retail and don't love Christmas there is clearly something wrong with you.
What have you learnt over the years about what to expect at this time of year?
Everything happens faster and in greater volume. You just roll up your sleeves and get on with it. A few years ago the festive season would typically began in mid-November for us but it is definitely later now.
You never know exactly when the real rush is going to start but once it kicks in, it always gathers momentum and it's always a great wave to ride. During the year 85 per cent of our sales are online but our instore business always increases dramatically at Christmas. These customers are typically time short so they need decisive service. We love having the shop full of people and the vibe that they bring.
How much more investment do you have to put into the business at this time of year to make sure you have enough stock?
Aside from the extra staff we budget on carrying an extra $350,000 worth of stock each month. We always order more than we think we can sell of our mainstay products. You simply can't run out of key lines.
Do you have any interesting stories about the Christmas month where you really had to pull out all the stops?
A couple of years ago we had a customer who wanted 240 bottles of wine individually gift wrapped while he waited. After we explained that could take a while he told us he'd go for a couple of beers while we wrapped his order. He obviously had a good time at the pub. One of the staff had to drive him and his order home!
When do you get to relax?
Boxing Day after the family festivities on Christmas day. I usually only work part time between then and the end of January. Being self-employed has to have some perks!
For many seasonal tourism/hospitality businesses around the country, the Christmas holiday period will make or break them. Tell us your stories. Email me, Gill South, at the link below: