How To Stuff A Stocking: Inventory Tips For The Pending Holidays

Empty Stockings Hung On Fireplace On Christmas Eve

It’s that time of year again: The holidays are upon us and business shall soon boom!

Are you ready?

No, really: Are you? How did your small business prepare for the upcoming Christmas holidays?

Plainly speaking: Your business will most likely spike; traditionally, most SBEs use one of four methods to handle the increase:

  • 33 per cent increase their inventory levels to match demand;
  • 31 percent stay open longer to give their customers more time for those all-important gift decisions;
  • 16 per cent hire more staff to work;
  • Only seven per cent employ inventory management technology to streamline the process.

The first three of these solutions focus only on the short-term, the immediate holiday season, but can affect your bottom line in a negative fashion throughout the  year. For example, three seasonal employees can run you almost £12,000 for the term. That figure does not include training costs and payout for any mistakes made during their tenure!


Related Article: HOW TO PREPARE FOR HOLIDAY RETURNS THE SEASON

Increased inventory is a double-edged sword. You can review your past holiday order histories and current trends to estimate your potential seasonal needs. Make shelf space available in your stockroom with discount sales on items that will soon go out of season. Produce a sales forecast based on your data and come up with reasonable estimates to keep your customers happy.

By the same token, don’t overstock with seasonal goods to the point that you sacrifice space for year-round sellers or boost your stock-out costs! If given the choice between a holiday flash and a constant sale, choose the moveable goods first.

Stuffed stockings hanging on a fireplace on christmas morning

Don’t focus solely on retail trends: World and local events can just as easily disrupt your supply lines. Check to see if any special events happened that might influence your needs (e.g., the NFL protests, the 2017 hurricane season, political debacles, etc.).

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Remember your turnover ratio (the cost of goods sold divided by your average inventory) is likely to fluctuate during the holidays. For specialty stock this season, utilize a pull strategy: Your customers tend to look for particular items during this time of year, don’t they? This comes in quite handy for displays of hot items for Christmas!

Did you order enough of the proper stock to keep customers in your queues or might they make their purchases elsewhere? Did you start early enough? While the traditional holiday rush started in mid- fall in the past, the introduction of Black Friday sales from the US cut prep time by more than a full month!

In other words: Don’t wait until the last moment to place your orders! Some customers start to shop for the holidays as early as October, which means you’ll need everything in place before then. And those high-demand items everyone simply must see beneath their trees? They’ll disappear rather quickly from your shelves and could go on backorder with your suppliers even quicker. That leads to the chief issue of peak-season inventory management: The time spent on processing and attempting to keep your data accurate with increased business. Such a thing is difficult, if not impossible, during average traffic!

Manual inventory is labor-intensive  and will only add to your holiday stress. Someone will be stuck on count after count to attempt accuracy (or its nearest relative). Stress, repetition, and out-and-out boredom can drastically increase the potential for human error. A mistake could lead to a lack of inventory and a loss to not only your holiday sales, but potentially a customer period.

An automated inventory management system, a long-term solution, can help save you almost two months’ time spent on repetitive tasks (like stock counts). Re-order points will help you keep up-to-date on how low your inventory dips and if you need to replenish it. You could see your human-error-related complaints decrease by as much as 65 per cent!

Holidays mean much more than just extra goods, though. Don’t you typically deck the halls – well, shelves – in holiday spirit? With inventory management, you can easily check your inventory status, order appropriately, and hang the wreath on the front door. Your customers will appreciate the valuable fruits of your efforts, especially with regards to their orders and their fulfillment!

Still, we must remember the reverse side of the order coin: The return. While almost 30 per cent of all retail sales come between November and December, almost 20 per cent of all returns happen during the holidays! Honestly, we all receive that one gift that screams, “I couldn’t figure out what to get you so I got this” or “I could have sworn you’d love it.”

The same inventory management wares that helped you track outgoing merchandise? It can rescan those same barcodes on incoming returns to keep your data updated. These items can then be held, separated from your returning regular inventory, and prepped for your first after-the-holidays sale!

Not necessarily a bad way to start off a new year.

Brian Sutter

Brian Sutter

Director of Marketing at Wasp Barcode
Brian Sutter is the Director of Marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media. He also writes and speaks on topics related to helping small business owners grow their business and improve operational efficiency.
Brian Sutter
Brian Sutter
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