How can summer festival merchants prepare for a successful trading season?


Attributed to Mike Elliff, CEO of Tyl by NatWest

For many summer means one thing and one thing only. Festival season. Despite 2021’s blip in the music festival calendar, overall attendance recovered to around 80% of its pre-pandemic level in 2022 as just over a fifth (21%) of UK consumers attended a music festival. By 2026, it’s estimated the market will reach a record high of more than £3.22 billion as the industry continues to cash in on pent-up consumer demand for live experiences.

Festivals are a lucrative way for small businesses, particularly those across food, beverages and merchandise to build engagement, maximise sales and even use this period as a launch pad for their enterprises.

However, there are various practicalities merchants need to consider to be well-equipped for a successful trading season, be it taking payments as quickly as possible or managing stock levels and inventory efficiently.

So, how can festival merchants prepare for a successful and streamlined trading process?

Use easy forms of payment to save time and maximise profits

Nowadays, taking card payments at festivals is non-negotiable and there’s no doubt as to why. Evolving consumer preferences have meant businesses need to offer cost-effective and time-saving solutions. Card and contactless payments eliminate the processing of cash, and festival merchants can facilitate faster transactions along with reduced wait times and queues for customers. By taking on a greater volume of payments in the same amount of time, merchants can serve more festival goers.

To further drive in-person commerce in a seamless way, merchants can embrace Tap to Pay technology by turning their mobile phone into a card reader. This not only takes away the need for physical hardware but also allows them to easily offer customers contactless payments. Supported with rigorous encryption and authentication, Tap to Pay offers customers another safe and secure contactless way to pay. With minimal costs and effort, it also gives merchants another way to boost revenue by capturing payments from devices they already own.

With manual data entries also being a typically laborious process for merchants, card and contactless payments automate this in real-time. Merchants can automatically sync their accounting data, enabling seamless accountancy integration. The benefits of digital payment technology ensure business owners are consistently reducing the risks of human error.

Managing inventory effectively

We’ve all been there as festival goers – you turn up for your desired treat and it’s sold out. By taking a smart approach to inventory management, merchants can not only keep customers happy but get a better grasp on how their business is performing. After all, cash flow is the lifeblood of any business, therefore effective inventory control measures are paramount.

It all starts with data. Access to accurate and up-to-date insights into their business operations is essential for time-strapped merchants. Investing in and having access to business analytics is a useful way for merchants to maintain an accurate handle on sales, payments, and inventory, keeping track of everything in one place and at the same time. Features such as the Tyl Portal can help merchants understand what products may or may not be selling well, or any issues around staffing numbers that can be resolved.

Such insights are invaluable when it comes to developing a stronger business model, helping merchants maximise profits and meet customer demands in what is a very busy and restless trading period. In turn, merchants can streamline their day-today processes, maintaining a positive cashflow so they can focus their attention where it’s needed: their customers.

Maximise brand visibility

To build an affinity with customers and drive a sense of long-term loyalty, merchants should give customers more ways to buy and access their products and services. Often, adopting an agile approach to trading, combining the best of online and offline commerce, can pay dividends.

Depending on what products and services are being offered, merchants should consider initiating round-the-clock sales, whether it’s selling online, via a website, social media, online marketplaces, or even through creating payment links. Alternatively, merchants can look to set up mobile premises at other locations with significant footfall to reach as many customers as possible. Adopting a hybrid approach and providing services and products to customers regardless of location and time, can enable merchants to effectively diversify their business models and increase visibility.

To further boost brand value and build loyalty, merchants can set up  rewards or loyalty programmes through their payments provider to make customers feel extra special and valued. Offering rewards or loyalty points for those buying certain products, taking advantage of certain deals and promotions or just frequently showing up, can help encourage them to return and spend more.

Reward schemes such as Tyl Rewards are easy to set-up and manage. It can offer merchants flexibility in offering meaningful rewards tailored to their clientele, motivating repeat business, and establishing a customer base that can be built upon through word of mouth and by advertising the offerings. Business owners can also monitor the performance of their rewards programme with real-time data and insights via a business management portal to gain an overview of what may or may not be working well.

Additionally, merchants can also look at establishing a giveback strategy that will create a positive impact on the community they are selling to. Tyl’s Giveback Community Fund enables merchants to seamlessly integrate giving back into their payment process, turning every tap into more than just a transaction. The Giveback initiative doesn’t cost merchants or their customers anything additional, allowing them to be fully involved in giving back without compromising the cost, efficiency, or the service they are providing.


By adopting the best tools and strategies, merchants can ensure they are best equipped to keep their business running smoothly and boost sales. Today’s technological innovations have meant business owners can streamline their operations, maximise transaction rates and offer an improved customer experience. By staying atop of customers’ demands and expectations, merchants can make the most of the festival season, establishing a customer base that will keep coming back for more.