Editor's Take: How Little Is Too Little?
With a most challenging holiday shopping season looming, one of the trickiest tightropes this year will be inventory planning and management. That's an ongoing catch-22 in good times or bad. But this year will be more challenging than most in recent memory. How much inventory will be enough? How much will be too much, leading to potential overstocks? How tight can you get without frustrating online or catalog shoppers with back orders, or store shoppers due to slim pickings on the racks?
So far, it seems to me that many retailers are stocking their shelves quite cautiously. On a recent Sunday afternoon, I snuck off to a local mall, looking for a birthday gift for my wife, Donna. As in the past, I was a stereotypically clueless and dumb husband. But I figured the wide array of stores at this mall would do the trick. Quite the contrary: I couldn't find much of anything.
In fact, a good dose of multichannel shopping couldn't even help me. While I was in Sears, looking through the Lands' End selections, I called my mother-in-law for her opinions. I read off the SKU numbers, and she went on the Lands' End site to look the items over. Alas, I still struck out, and couldn't find anything.
Then, when I made my way over to the assorted jewelry stores and jewelry sections of the department stores, it became even more clear that all of them have scaled back their offerings quite drastically. To say I found virtually nothing would be an understatement. It didn't matter if it was Zales or Macy's or Littman Jewelers or Lord & Taylor. None of them had much to choose from, and I eventually moped on home with nothing. 🙁
It's easy to see retailers struggling with inventory planning this season. So I encourage you to check out Ray Goodman's Inventory Management column (pg. 30) for some planning pointers on the holiday season. Ray reminds us that every day between now and the end of the season provides a chance to forecast, place reorders and adjust existing purchase orders.