The True Meaning Of Christmas In Retail

Last month we stepped back on to UK soil after 3 weeks away in 35+ degree heat. This month is the first month we are in full on Christmas stock making mode. Last month we were chopping our way through the Sumatran Jungle and climbing active volcanoes at 5am, this month we're pushing tiny eyelets into cork stoppers for our hanging decorations and spray painting 100's of wooden acorns. It's quite a dramatic change but this is the reality of what happens in the Bread & Jam studios.

In fact starting to think about Christmas in September, is too late for our business. This year we started seriously donning our thinking caps in February, yes that's right February. We allowed ourselves an entire month off thinking about Christmas in January! Why so early? Well that's simple. It's tricky to guarantee that ideas will flow when you need them to, you need to explore, draw, paint, collect, get inspired, it doesn't always happen just because you want it to.  We also have deadlines. If we want the chance to be featured in the notonthehighstreet Christmas catalogue we have to submit our ideas in April, most of the major press associations are fact finding and gathering content for Christmas editorial and gift guides in July. So that gives us a few months, to design and turn ideas into something that actually works, cost it and know we can get stock of all the raw materials, which means finding suppliers and then back up suppliers. In fact April deadlines are quite late for retail. Major retailers will be sourcing their Christmas products at least 12 month ahead!!

So whilst you enjoyed your Easter break this year, we were copper painting acorns ( as well as our hands), figuring out how to produce larger quantities if we need to scale it up, folding card into gingerbread houses, playing with ribbon colours, ditching ideas that don't work so well, sourcing stock and bartering over prices with suppliers.

One of the most important yet difficult part for us is gathering feedback and opinions. We don't want to release our exciting new ideas too early, there's so many chances for copy cat designers to "be inspired", yet sometimes you get caught in your own bubble of thinking something's great, but that doesn't mean everyone else will.  So this year we shared our ideas with a couple of trusted friends ( you know who you are) where we were able to ask an honest opinion from like minded creative folk without the worry of it being copied.

When you think you have a great idea, you just want to share, and oh it's so hard not to, especially as it is so easy to post a photograph online these days. Eventually, when we can't wait any longer and post on social media we will inevitably be met with the 'don't mention the c word' response but it's not because we are trying to sell to you in June, it's because we want to gauge opinion. Opinions are vital to help us to gauge our required stock levels, make important decisions about the final finishes and spur us on to stay in Christmas mode for the next six months. You guys also provide us with such important feedback, we read every one of your comments. Without your suggestions we probably wouldn't have produced the gingerbread advent calendar this year, and this now is going to be featured in the notonthehighstreet Christmas catalogue, so thank you.

So, now is the time we start making stock in earnest. There is already a room full of stock we've been working on, but now it gets serious. we're going through final number crunching, juggling cash to purchase stock you won't see any return from just yet, looking at how many staff we need and the roles they will need to fill, from packing elves, to making elves, to all round helper elves. People that can balance the chat and the banter with the knuckle down time, these types of workers are harder to find than you think.

And once this is all in place we begin to hope. There's a whole lot of that; hope that people like our products, hope that they will part with their hard earned cash, hope that they share the same festive vision we had all the way back in February. Each sale genuinely takes us back to the very first sales we had when we started the company, that tingle and warming feeling, we'll never take it for granted, it's truly humbling. We hope that we have our numbers right and we haven't over ordered, but we also hope we haven't sold ourselves short, it's such a fine balance.

And when Christmas is all done and dusted, we are busy wrapping and packing our gifts off to friends and family, thank you gifts for couriers, postal staff, and for those that have helped along the way, for which we couldn't get through the Christmas crazy without.

Then and only then is it feet up!! Until the following Feb when it all starts again....!