The Calm After the Storm: Aussie Retailers Share December Results, January Plans

The advent of Click Frenzy and the growing hype behind American sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday has created a shift in how Aussies shop come Christmas. With more purchases being made online, consumers shopping earlier in the festive season, and retailers reportedly attracting less foot traffic in December, where does the online industry sit?

Retail tradition, while valuable, isn’t always king in the online sphere, especially as retailers begin to max out their discounting capabilities before the big red man pays a visit. For digital players, however, Christmas seems to have proven fruitful, while January marks the beginning of a prosperous year, where growth and possibility reign supreme.

We speak to five online retail businesses to see how they performed over Christmas, and how that performance has impacted their plans for January and beyond.

Glen Mayer, Owner and Founder, Subo Products

For Subo Products, all of the company’s Christmases came at once when the business recorded a 70 percent increase YOY for its festive sales.

“Subo grew tremendously as a brand last year,” Mayer tells Power Retail. “We were featured on Channel 9’s Shark Tank, as well as in media outlets like Babyhlogy, Mamamia, New Idea, Kidspot, Mum’s Grapevine and The Herald Sun, to name a few. We feel that the brand/product awareness, as well as strong word of mouth and positive reviews really helped us out over the holiday period.”

While Christmas might be over, the school holidays are still going, with Mayer saying his business is in the perfect position to capitalise on increased family activities during this time.

“We are currently running social media ad campaigns targeting families who may not have come across Subo and its benefits yet. We’ve also grown our stockist list across Australia to 80+, with plenty of them using their own networks to promote our brand and products across their available platforms.”

Talita Estelle, Founder, Esther & Co

To take better control of its December trading results, Esther & Co took a proactive approach to its marketing.

“To combat all the noise during the holiday season this year, we had 25 days of Christmas running to give customers a reason to see what we were up to daily. We also partnered with Afterpay to give away a $5,000 wardrobe,” Talita explains.

In an effort to bring this momentum through to the New Year, the business made the strategic decision to start the year with a bang, launching its new mobile app on January 1. “We combined this with an exciting giveaway trip to Italy”, she says.

Esther & CO’s new app is expected landed on January 1.

But, the company doesn’t view its app as the be all and end all of its brand awareness and marketing strategy, as it still has a lot more up its sleeve for the year ahead.

“In addition to this, we have several promos lined up in the next two months, including providing a gift with a purchase, a summer sale and more giveaways you won’t want to miss. Not to mention a new website on the brink of being launched as well.

“In February we are launching our next Bridal party giveaway to promote our Luxe range, so stay tuned!”

Dean Salakas, Co-CEO, The Party People

The Party People’s high single-digit sales growth for the Christmas quarter has left the company’s Co-CEO, Dean Salakas excited about the year to come. The party supplies business reportedly started to see an uplift in sales as early as October, with Halloween sales growing YOY and continuing to see ROI well into November.

“October, November and December were particularly good for us [last year]. Since October 31 was a Wednesday, we actually saw a lot of Halloween trade take place later, on November 1, 2 and 3, by more than double 2017’s post-Halloween trading days… November was also strong due to good Christmas sales and also those post-Halloween sales,” Salakas says.

Dean Salakas
Co-CEO of The Party People, Dean Salakas.

This trend reportedly continued in December, with The Party People recording strong sales across the board. According to Salakas, part of this growth can be attributed to a growing number of consumers choosing to purchase higher quality goods over their cheaper, lesser quality counterparts.

“We see this as a shift in customer expectations,” he says. “In the past, customers would settle for low-quality items. Today, they have more choice and customers are looking for value, not just the lowest price.”

In January, The Party People is confident it will still see good sales, while other retailers might see a drop in traffic when Boxing Day sales slow down. “We typically have strong results due to Australia Day, as well as Chinese New Year. Due to our continued growth across the whole business, I expect January and February to be very strong for us,” he continues.

The company’s projected growth in 2019 is predicted to stem from: growing product categories that will include events like Day of the Dead, Chinese New Year, Christmas in July and etc; Growing range, which will be reviewed after each event to determine what sold and what didn’t; and digital leadership, with the company recently recording its best search rankings in the company’s history thanks to its SEO efforts, as well as growing brand awareness.

Geneviève Rosen-Biller, Founder, Bed Threads 

According to the founder of French flax linen bedding company, Bed Threads, December was a profitable month for the business. “We were pleased to see strong sales this holiday period, and an increase on last year’s figures,” she says.

Genevieve Rosen-Biller
Bed Threads founder, Genevieve Rosen-Biller.

“Our 100 percent French flax linen sets make beautiful gifts for any occasion, so we emphasised the Christmas messaging throughout our marketing and communications strategy, which contributed hugely to sales performance.”

In addition to adapting its communications and branding messages to promote the sale of Christmas gift-appropriate product lines, Rosen-Biller also says that new product launches at the start of the month also aided with its festive sales and has kept the excitement up well into the New Year.

“We launched two new colourways, Rust and Terracotta, at the beginning of December, which gave both new and existing customers something to be excited about beyond the festive season,” she explains. “The new product launch has been very successful, and we are still leveraging the hype these colours generated – warm tones are trending for 2019 – just look at Pantone’s colour of the year!”

What else is in store for January and the rest of 2019? Rosen-Biller says that social media and a strong cross-channel content strategy will play a big role.

“We have a strong multi-channel content strategy to serve our community with fresh, inspiring and relevant pieces (whether it’s across Instagram or on our Journal) that transcends market trends and aims to engage all year round.”

Lauren Lee, CEO, STYLE STORY

Online Korean beauty store, STYLE STORY, achieved lower-than-expected sales in December, with the company’s CEO saying holiday sales “were below forecasts”. However, it wasn’t all bad news for the Brisbane-based business, as sales were reportedly 15 percent up on 2017’s figures.

“I think there were several factors at play,” Lee explains. “We spent a lot more time focusing on influencer collaborations in the lead-up to Christmas, had several timely features in relevant online and offline media outlets and also increased our advertising spend,” she says.

In the past, the online Korean beauty supplier has been featured in the likes of Cosmopolitan, Elle, Virgin Australia’s ‘Voyeur’, and on popular digital outlets like The Urban List, News.com.au and The Sydney Morning Herald, to name a few.

While these collaborations have often proved fruitful for the business, Lee says that more work is needed if the brand wants to continue increasing its website traffic. In January, Lee hopes this will be achieved by growing the business’s suite of available brands and chasing up new and exciting promotional opportunities.

“We have new brand releases planned for January and February, several large-scale offline events and a collaboration with a newly-launched Korean beauty review platform to generate additional website traffic,” she says.

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