Are You Ready for Holiday 2011?
Follow up with your vendors a couple weeks in advance of a shipping date. This will help you head off any late shipping surprises. If you're working with drop-ship vendors, make sure their stock levels are ready to support your projected sales.
If you sell in multiple channels, how nimble is your inventory strategy? If you mail catalogs in drops, products need to be reserved for customer response later in the cycle. That said, don't let inventory get "frozen" in a channel. Is it clearly identified in your company who will make decisions as to when specific product inventory should be released to other channels?
Christmas' Second Season
Post-Christmas sales and the use of gift cards start on Christmas Day. Do you have a plan in place to attract consumers to spend their Christmas gift cards? Having one will help extend the life of your most profitable season.
One thing brick-and-mortar retailers have been extremely good at is finishing the Christmas season on budget with their inventory plans. They're often more nimble than catalog brands, yet e-commerce is often the great equalizer as it gives all companies tremendous flexibility and agility. Do you have your liquidation strategies in place?
Get Ready for Holiday 2012
In the midst of your busy season it's hard to think of anything but getting through it all. However, start a journal to log your observations about what went right and what can be improved upon in your planning, forecasting and inventory performance. Then start the new year with a post-mortem of your results and develop a strategy for improvement. Here are some potential topics to consider:
- identify the pain points — both yours and your customers — during your peak season;
- formalize a post-mortem process of evaluating performance;
- improve vendor compliance;
- identify changes in planning, forecasting and streamlining purchasing processes;
- improve forecasting and planning for your e-commerce site;
- integrate marketing and inventory schedules;
- develop better communication between e-commerce and marketing teams;
- identify changes in your organization; and
- improve key inventory control benchmarks for customer service and profitability.
Here's hoping your business has a profitable holiday season. There are always ways to be proactive to turn in an even better performance. It's time well spent.
Curt Barry is president of F. Curtis Barry & Co., a multichannel consulting firm specializing in process improvement, order and warehouse management systems, inventory forecasting and management, fulfillment center design, and benchmarking. Reach Curt at email@example.com.