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Preparing for Christmas

Closing down for the holidays? Here's what you need to do

If your business is closing down for Christmas, Kat Knight outlines some of the things you will probably need to do.

"Think of the implications of closing down for Christmas, particularly the effect it might have on your customers," says business adviser Frank Thaxton, director at Thames Valley Partners Ltd. "Your clients may not be taking a holiday and you could lose business if you don’t provide them with a full backup service.

"Tell key clients about your plans, let them know how to contact you and ensure you have an appropriate message on your answerphone." Also, make sure you arrange alternative arrangements in advance to keep clients happy: for example, you may need to make January deliveries in December.

Tim James, policy and representation manager at the North East Chamber of Commerce, recommends some basic (but important) activities before closing down. "Do some housekeeping," he says, "tidy the inside and outside of your premises. Unplug electrical equipment and pre-set your hot water to come on once a day so your water pipes don’t freeze."

Quote�Check your security alarms are in working order and that someone is contactable in the event of a crisis.�End Quote

Security is paramount if you plan to leave your premises or any vehicles unattended. "Check your security alarms are in working order and that someone is contactable in the event of a crisis," advises James. "Take cash off your premises, lock hardware away, back up all your computer files and take the disks offsite," recommends Thaxton. "Be careful what message you put on your answerphone and on email auto-responses – advertising you are closed is an invitation to burglars," he warns.

Pay the bills

Retail businesses are at their busiest in the run-up to Christmas, but Thaxton advises against "overworking your staff at this time of year, although you should make the most of this busy period. This may be an appropriate time to plan ahead for a January sale to clear stock."

It might be wise to pay outstanding bills before Christmas, too, but if you are sending cheques remember that the festive post is slower, while creditors have a statutory right to charge interest on late payment.

If your quarterly VAT return is due in December, get it done in good time, especially if you are sending it through the post. "It’s amazing how many companies leave their VAT return to the last minute – and then get a �100 fine because they left it too late," warns James.

Think about the well-being of your employees, too. Try to ensure that they all get restful breaks away from work so they are more likely to return to their jobs freshly motivated in the new year.

If you do find yourself in your workplace, James recommends making the most of the quiet period: "Do the admin you always put off. Look through that pile of paperwork you should have read."

He suggests that Christmas "might be a good time for reflection" – advice echoed by Thaxton. "One of the most useful things you can do during the break is to think about where your business is going. It may be that you need a slight change in direction – you might want to consider your goals for the following year."

What next?

Read our holiday FAQ to find out the law about leave, and payment in lieu.

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