Don’t let seasonal business hitches pull you down…
Inventory management is a tricky task in itself and when it comes to seasonal inventory, nobody said it is going to be any easier.
Seasonal inventory is stock which is in demand during specific periods of time like the holidays and the different seasons.
As Winter is just around the corner, let’s read on to know about all the challenges with seasonal inventory and how to combat them.
Inventory Control… out of control!
The rapid rise in demand for products is usually followed by a sudden dip in demand. This dynamic shift in demand makes it difficult to judge inventory levels, as retailers need to order just the right amount of stock to fulfill customer demands.
Seasonal inventory could possibly result in over-stocking products, as businesses tend to simply order more of those products that are selling fast. But if demand drops soon after, they left with a warehouse full of excess stock that slowly becomes redundant.
Doing the Balancing Act
Seasonality in demand can lead to a total topsy-turvy situation when it comes to balancing inventory in multiple warehouses or points of sale. Many times a particular product variant such as size or color can go out-of-stock in one store but remain unsold in another store. Seasonal inventory poses this challenge as items become dated in a jiffy.
Out-of-stock shelves can push customers away towards competitors, lowering revenue. Surplus stock results in mounting warehouse holding costs. Due to this imbalance, both the sale and the customer are gone and retailers are only left with a warehouse full of dead stock and rising associated costs.
Be safe with safety stock
Inventory shipping is a frustrating thing for retailers as early shipments bring in carrying costs and delayed shipments have substantial financial consequences on the business as they can ruin promotions and sale period since items might go out-of-stock quickly.
To combat problems related to shipping, businesses often keep safety stock on hand. However, a little caveat is that the optimal amount of safety stock is difficult to calculate. The basic idea behind investing in additional stock is to prevent stock-out situations. However, overdone safety stock makes it even more difficult for retailers to manage their inventory.
These are some of the common mistakes and challenges that retailers face when dealing with seasonal inventory. But as they say, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. There are certain measures that sellers can take so as to not get perturbed by the hurdles presented by seasonality of demand.
Look into the past
What do our elders teach us? “Kid, learn from your past experiences.”
The best way to analyze how to phase in or phase out seasonal inventory is to look at historical sales and purchase data. Take a close at sales volume monthly and events or holidays that cause dramatic ups and downs in the demand for products. Here you can utilize the efficiency of an inventory management system to give you detailed analytical reports into all sales and purchase history.
Distinguish Seasonal items and Peaks
To know your products is a must. Analyze your inventory closely and identify which merchandise is seasonal. You can categorize by different seasons, annual or monthly sales, or peak periods. It is important to separate seasonal inventory from your product list as this will give you inside information into how much you have currently and how much reordering is required for the next season.
Don’t remain uncertain
The main obstacle regarding seasonality is trying to understand when the peak periods occur, their magnitude and the level of uncertainty associated with them. Understanding these elements can allow sellers to proactively increase inventory in time for the season’s demand to the necessary level, and increase or decrease safety stock to prepare for any uncertainty in the forecast.
In fact, don’t neglect the non-peak period for seasonal products. During lean periods, monitoring sales of seasonal items are important so as to forecast the scale of their demand outside the peak periods to plan inventory levels accordingly.
Every channel is different
Selling on different channels isn’t an easy task. To add on to that it also means different consumer demand, purchase patterns, and inventory management for each channel. For example, shoppers visiting your web store might be ‘window shopping’ simply, but they are buying your products from one of your online marketplaces.
To get a grasp over the movement of inventory and where it moves, businesses should dedicate their marketing efforts across all channels. In doing this, sellers will get a solid insight into the ebbs and flows of inventory.
Shipping? Nay, Dropshipping
Since seasonal items are time-specific, small and medium retailers and sellers can take advantage of dropshipping, instead of manufacturing seasonal items themselves. Dropshipping is a method of utilizing a third-party supplier to hold inventory and fulfill customer orders. In this process, the seller never comes in contact with the product at all. Here, the customer places the order from your shop, though it is fulfilled by the dropshipper.
Dropshipping is an excellent option to free up warehouse space and not get involved in the hassles of inventory management and operations.
Check out what’s #trending
Social media can be an excellent medium to understand and anticipate the demand for seasonal items. Check what is trending in Google searches and social media platforms. Keep a close eye on competitors and how they are advertising similar seasonal products on Instagram and Facebook. From this, you can take cues on how to modify your efforts to compete with others.
Also knowing trending product can be a big advantage for you as a seller because it will eventually give the idea of what item or product’s safety stock is required and in how much quantity, to avoid unpredictable supply or demand fluctuations.
Challenges with seasonality in the future
As e-commerce shopping gains momentum and becomes more dominant as a marketplace, consumers will be spoilt for choice like never before. Delayed deliveries and out-of-stock shelves will not be tolerated by customers. This makes it even more essential to perfect seasonal inventory management.
Companies will also have to compete with each other for supplies, as suppliers only have a limited capacity for production, and buyers who notify them early on will be getting preference.
Summing up, in both these scenarios, making accurate demand forecasting and providing greater visibility and access to suppliers into seasonal inventory can be key factors in achieving success with seasonal inventory management.