Even in a normal year, the Christmas period is always the busiest for many small businesses around the country. But now, with fears over fuel shortages and shipping delays, things look set to be more chaotic than ever before. Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to get your business ready for the festive rush.

First, try and encourage your customers to shop early wherever they can. Whether this takes the form of a post on social media or a more formal note on your website, it’s important to be realistic about what shoppers can expect. So if you think that supply chain issues are likely to affect your business in the runup to Christmas, be honest with your customers – and give them the chance to place any orders well ahead.

Next, consider whether you might need to diversify during the coming months. For example, if you stock products that are typically shipped to the UK from abroad, it might be worth exploring more locally-sourced options – at least until the new year. Or, if you’re a crafter dependent on supplies that might get caught up in shipping chaos, consider whether or not you can find alternatives closer to home.

What it’s really about, though, is preparation. First, we recommend mapping out each step of your shipping process, keeping an eye out for any areas where difficulties or bottlenecks might appear. That way, you can streamline your operation before the festive orders come rolling in – and you’ll have clear and concise directions to pass on to anyone you rope in to help.

Next, make sure that you are well stocked up on packing and shipping supplies long before the Christmas rush hits the stores. Whether that’s eco-friendly packaging, bubble wrap to protect fragile products or simply plenty of envelopes and boxes, you won’t want to be running around looking for last-minute options when the high street is full of panicked shoppers.

On top of that, it’s also important to plan your shipping schedule accordingly. So before you quote any delivery times to your customers, make sure that you’re up to date on your carrier’s current schedule – including any seasonal delays. Remember, if you promise to have an item with the customer by Christmas, it’s important that you deliver. If you fail, you could risk a slew of bad publicity that won’t disappear any time soon.

Finally, make sure that you don’t forget about the individual customer experience in all the chaos of the Christmas rush. Whether you’re trying to generate a buzz on social media, drum up repeat business or simply stand out from the crowd, curating an impressive unboxing experience is key. To prevent this from falling by the wayside as orders start to mount up, plan your strategy beforehand and make sure you’ve got all the supplies that you need to deliver.

This year, more shoppers than ever before are turning to independent businesses to purchase gifts in the runup to Christmas. And with a little forward planning, you can make the most of this trend, enjoying a welcome festive boost for your store.