Whether you’re a sole trader or a larger organisation, knowing how your business is performing is critical to continued success. This is where your key performance indicators (KPIs) come in. [Read more…] about Business Countdown 9: review your KPIs
Christmas markets are a tradition for many families, with the opportunity to tick off your gift list and enjoy delicious festive fare all under one roof. You could even use it as a basis for a relaxing weekend away before the busy holiday season. But with so many to choose from, where do you start? We’ve pulled together our favourites to point you in the right direction. With city markets, stately homes, castles, and local Hertfordshire options, there truly is something for everyone!
If this sounds great but you’re short of time, why not let us arrange a bespoke Christmas shopping trip for you, including a market visit (in the UK or abroad), travel and transport, plus a relaxing hotel to put your feet up afterwards. Our expert wrapping team can even wrap all your gifts beautifully, leaving you free to enjoy the festive cheer!
Contact us to find out more, and let us take the pressure off this Christmas.
Top 10 UK City Christmas Markets
Bath 23 Nov-10 Dec
Edinburgh 17 Nov-7 Jan
York 16 Nov-22 Dec
Birmingham 17 Nov-29 Dec
Brighton Nov 26-11 Dec
Winchester 18 Nov-20 Dec (pictured)
Nottingham 19 Nov-24 Dec
Leeds 11 Nov-18 Dec
London Winter Wonderland 17 Nov-1 Jan 2018
Oxford 7 Dec-17 Dec
TOP 5 Stately Homes and Castles Christmas Markets
Blenheim Palace 16 Nov-19 Nov (pictured)
Leeds Castle 25/26 Nov, 2/3 Dec, 9/10 Dec, 16/17 Dec
Waddeson Manor 15 Nov-10 Dec
Highclere Castle 5/6 Dec
Ludlow 25/26 Nov
Kimpton Christmas Market 2 Dec (pictured)
Knebworth House 10 Nov-12 Nov
Hatfield House 16 Nov-19 Nov
St Albans 25 Nov-23 Dec
Redbourn 3 Dec
In week 9 it’s all about who to buy for, what to buy and how much to spend. If you followed our advice in Week 12 to buy a Christmas planner, this week is when you get to start using the gift buying pages.
Gift buying is probably one of the biggest Christmas stresses, both financially and on your time, so a little planning and preparation will reap rewards. Read on for our expert guidelines on planning the perfect gift list.
And if you’re struggling to keep on track then don’t forget that Hour Hands can take care of it all for you. From sourcing the perfect present to wrapping it beautifully, we can tick each item off your list, leaving you free to spend time with your family. Contact us to find out more, and don’t just take our word for it – read The Mirror’s account of our time-saving Christmas services.
NEW – Keep it local!
Throughout November we’ll be featuring some great gift ideas with a real focus on buying local. Follow us on Facebook to find out more.
Have a budget
Write a list of who you have to buy for and how much you’d ideally like to spend. This will keep your Christmas shopping focused, as you can instantly dismiss items that exceed your budget. And don’t be tempted to add little extras; these quickly add up and send your spending over the limit. Starting early allows you to really think about the person you’re buying for, and you can go for quality rather than quantity. Also remember to consider postage charges and dates.
Keep a wish list handy
Write down a list of things that your partner or children would love to receive. This will really help when other family members ask you for ideas. Keep the list on your phone, so that you can add to it when you’re out shopping or if a relative catches you on the hop!
If you’re posting presents, keep postage costs to a minimum by buying lighter items. You don’t want to end up spending more on the postage than the actual gift! Post Boxed offers some great solutions.
Planning saves money and leg work!
Planning your list now allows you to shop around for the best deals. Start by looking on the internet, and make sure you’re ready for Black Friday offers on 24th November 2017. There’s less risk of items being out of stock, and you can take advantage of cheaper delivery options that usually take longer to arrive.
Wrapping one or two presents at a time is much less overwhelming than doing it all in one hit on Christmas Eve! Even better, let the Hour Hands Gift Wrapping team take care of it and give yourself more time to enjoy the festivities with your family.
Our wrapping experts can deal with gifts of all shapes and sizes, giving even the simplest present that ‘wow’ factor. Simply contact us to discuss your individual requirements.
Don’t wait until Christmas Day to start putting the children’s toys together. Assembling beforehand retains the excitement as they can start playing immediately. It also gives you a chance to check all the pieces are there and you have the right batteries etc. There’s nothing more disappointing than finding out on the day that they can’t actually play with it at all…
Buy some extras, just in case…
Have a small stash of emergency presents, just in case! Even the most organised Christmas shopper can forget sometimes, so keeping a few extra gifts on hand will prevent any embarrassment. Chocolates, gift vouchers, candles and wine are always appreciated, especially when wrapped up beautifully.
Have presents ready to save on postage
Think about who you’ll be seeing in the lead up to Christmas. Having their presents ready to drop off will save you postage costs, and helps to get things ticked off the list!
Stick to the plan!
If you’ve spent time and effort creating a gift list, then stick to it. This will help you to remain on budget and have your Christmas shopping all wrapped up (see what we did there?!) to enjoy the holidays stress free and within budget.
In the meantime, here are a few ideas to get your lists started!
Cactus Kitchens Knife Skills Masterclass - from £149
AEON Leather iPhone Case - £110
Phaidon 'Food and Beer' - £29.95
Cocktails in Kensington: a Private Cocktail Masterclass for 2 - £140
For babies and toddlers
Bright Starts 5 in 1 Ball Activity Play Gym - £79.99
Tots Art Gallery - £20
For kids and tweens
Wooden Automata Kits - from £12.95
3D Maker Freestyler Pen - £14.99
Ozobot Bit Starter Pack - £55
Thames Rocket Ultimate London Adventure Family Ticket - £138 (2 adults and 2 children)
Ultimate Ears ROLL 2 Bluetooth Speaker: Ultraportable with Floatie, Waterproof and Shockproof - £64.
It’s Week 10, and our thoughts have moved to competitor analysis. When you started up and produced your first business plan, did you identify your competitors? And have you kept that up to date?
Completing this analysis forms a vital part of your marketing plan. Don’t let it be a one-off activity. Here’s our tips on how to put together a comprehensive analysis that will help inform your business strategy.
And if this sounds great but you won’t have time to do it before next Christmas, let alone this one, then Hour Hands can help. Simply give us a quick brief and our research team will put together a detailed report that will make a difference to your business. Why not check out our case studies to see how we’ve helped other businesses?
Identify the competition
Start by identifying who your competitors are – you could do this from a potential customer’s point of view, using search phrases someone might use to find services like yours. You could also look at other sources of information, such as directories.
Once you’ve drawn up your list of competitors, it’s time to work through questions such as:
- How does their website compare?
- Is their branding strong and consistent?
- What products or services do they sell?
- What geographic area they operate in?
- How does their pricing work?
- What makes their product unique?
- What are the benefits of their product or service?
- Which market segments are they targeting?
- How they market their services – what channels do they use and how often?
- What type of content do they have?
Develop additional questions that fit with your business and market. Be thorough, objective and positive.
Look in the mirror
Also assess your own business. You’ll be able to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and where your product or service fits in. Think about:
- How your service compares? How is your company different from the others on your list?
- Do you review your marketing effectiveness? Do you know what works?
- Make sure you repeat what works, but don’t be afraid to try new things.
- Collaboration – don’t be too quick to avoid the competition; it might be beneficial to collaborate if your services are complementary.
- Are you thinking of entering any new markets? If so, competitor analysis will be invaluable for your planning.
Hour Hands Research Packages
The sheer volume of content on the internet means that research can take far longer than it needs to. Don’t waste your time ploughing through poor quality or unnecessary information. Hour Hands can take your brief and find the information you need, quickly and efficiently. To give you a guide, our competitor analysis research package costs just £100 and will provide you with a detailed report covering at least 10 competitors, but we can source information on anything you need – just contact us and we’ll get started!
We’re now down to Week 10 of our Christmas Countdown, and we’re going to share our tips for decluttering. With half term upon us, it’s a great time to sort out children’s toys and make room for Santa’s upcoming delivery (if they’ve been good!).
If you’re struggling to find time to fit this all in then don’t worry, Hour Hands can help. Contact us to find out more about our decluttering service, and how we can help you free up valuable space in your home.
The first rule of decluttering is: don’t try to conquer a mountain! Concentrate on small areas at any one time, to avoid feeling overwhelmed and make it easier to get started.
Post and paperwork
Designate a place to store incoming papers and post – these are often the first things to start cluttering up your space. Have a handy tray or basket near your letter box – as post arrives, open it and assess if it’s junk, to file, or to read later. Anything to file or read later can go into the basket, and put junk mail straight into the recycling. Tear it up or shred as you go, otherwise a growing pile of ‘to be shredded’ paperwork quickly becomes a very unappealing task (and is more likely to overheat your shredder!).
Have a place for everything
Don’t worry, you don’t have to place all your belongings in alphabetical order or tidy away with military precision – who has time for that?! Start by designating a home (drawers, cupboards, baskets or shelves) for everything, and aim to return each thing to its rightful place once it has been used.
In reality, when you’re racing to head out of the door each morning for work, school or gym, you’re unlikely to have time to put everything in its place. The Hour Hands tried-and-tested solution is to leave a basket upstairs and one downstairs, where you can drop any wayward items. When you return home you’ll appreciate the clear floor and feel super-organised. And when (if?) you have a spare moment later, you can return the items to their rightful place. But if you don’t have time to do this for a few days there’s no need to stress – if you can’t find an item then the only other place it’s likely to be is in the basket!
- Place dividers in drawers; this makes it easy to pop things away and also makes spotting them in the drawer much easier.
- Folding and rolling t-shirts, socks, underwear and nightwear, rather than stacking them on top of each other, means that you use up much less space and can easily see what you have in your drawers.
Make it easy for the kids to keep their rooms or playrooms tidy – give them easy-to-reach and clearly labelled boxes, baskets and drawers, so that toys can be easily tidied away at the end of each day.
These containers can also help you control the number of toys out at any one time: “Of course you can play with the train set, just as soon as the Lego pieces go back into their home!”
For younger children, a toy library is a great way to unclog a mountain of toys that have sat unloved for months at a time. Pack a number of such toys away in a large-lidded plastic container – the ‘toy library’ – and store the container in an out-of-the way place for several months.
Then some rainy day you bring out the toy library with a flourish, swapping the stored toys for other playthings that have since lost their appeal. The stored toys will enjoy fresh appeal, without gathering dust in your child’s room.
Set a reminder to clear out your wardrobe at the end of summer and winter. Once the chill arrives, pack away your high-summer items and store in vacuum bags or tightly sealed storage boxes in a loft or spare room. While doing this, it’s worth assessing the items and donating to charity anything you haven’t worn for six months, that doesn’t fit, or that’s not properly useful. Repeat this exercise at the end of winter, and don’t forget to include shoes in the process too!
- Herbs and spices cupboard
- Medicine cabinet
- Cosmetics and toiletries
It’s week 11 of our countdown, and this week we’re discussing why your business needs a Business Management System. [Read more…] about Week 11: Business Countdown