Seasonality can prove tricky when it comes to shifting time-sensitive stock. However, with the right timing and management, stocking seasonally can bring in big money for your business. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll be discussing the management of seasonal stock alongside year-round permanent stock.
The Benefits of Selling Seasonal Stock
Cashing in on the holidays is often more of a necessity than a bonus for many businesses, with retail sales figures from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2020 revealing that the following categories generated upwards of 30% of their yearly sales in the fourth quarter alone:
Beyond helping retailers make up the numbers during a crucial sales period, are there any other benefits to selling seasonal stock?
For one thing, the market for these products is well-defined, making them easier to promote to your target audience. People don’t need much convincing when it comes to buying festive decor, clothing, or food, meaning there are always going to be customers seeking out seasonal stock. The main difficulty is standing out in a crowded market.
Consider announcing teasers or sneak peeks of some of the seasonal products you’ll be offering earlier on via social media to build hype. Countdown clocks and email lists for early access on your website and social channels can play into this, too. Have fun with your marketing and get creative wit all the ways you can get people excited about your offering.
The holidays also provide a predictable timeslot to plan for, with searches for ‘Christmas’ on CREOATE hitting a peak in late August, and continuing to spike throughout September. Getting seasonal stock in earlier allows retailers to test the waters regarding customer demand, while also helping to manage cash-flow, and accumulate the right amount of stock ahead of busier months closer to the holiday season when postal services are notoriously less reliable.
Crunching the Numbers
In 2022, the holiday shopping season will start earlier for many consumers in the United States. According to the findings of a recent survey, just over half of U.S. consumers were intending to start their holiday shopping in October 2022. This share was at 45 per cent last year.
Meanwhile, in the UK, consumers are also feeling the pinch due to the rising cost of living, with George Weston, the CEO of Primark-owner Associated British Foods (ABF.L), told Reuters, ‘People are spreading their Christmas purchases across three or four paydays, rather than relying on cash that they have in hand in December’. Similarly, Co CEO of M&S Katie Bickerstaffe told reporters that its customers had already bought about 30% of their clothing and homewares Christmas gifts.
"People are planning forward a little bit now," she said, highlighting the very high demand for Christmas pyjamas.
While total expected sales for retail events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are projected to be down this year versus in 2021, UK consumers are nonetheless expected to spend a total of 8.71 billion British pounds over the course of the Black Friday weekend in 2022, 3.9 billion of which will be spent in stores. Unsurprisingly, generational internet natives are more likely to drop coin this Black Friday, with Millennials and Gen X predicted to spend up to £209 and £217 on average, respectively. With this being said, it’s worth ensuring that any Black Friday activity or offers you promote are foremost accessible online to tap into this lucrative demographic.
With inflation increasingly forcing many shoppers to begin their gift shopping early, the expectation for shops to offer seasonal stock ever sooner could prove to be a blessing for retailers looking to gauge demand and re-stock accordingly in preparation for the holiday season.
Tips for Managing Seasonal Inventory
Get the most out of your seasonal stock with these handy tips for managing time-sensitive inventory.
- Monitor inventory metrics
- Improve your forecasting
- Make use of down season sales
- Bundle products together
- Find an inventory management method that works for you
- Consider taking pre-orders
Monitor Inventory Metrics
Establish effective inventory management from the get-go. Gauge this by monitoring inventory metrics such as the following:
- Inventory turnover: How fast you restock products vs. how fast they sell. Low inventory turnover = too much stock. This also means fewer sales.
- ‘Days to Sell Inventory’: The average number of days it takes to sell off inventory. A high DSI suggests your stock is harder to sell, or that inventory is not being managed effectively.
- Average inventory levels: An estimate of the number of units available over a specific period. You want your average inventory levels to line up with average seasonal sales.
- Total stock-outs: Several stock-outs during a season indicate poor forecasting and an increased ordering requirement.
Improve your forecasting
If you’re investing in seasonal stock for the first time, at best you’re making an educated guess. However, it may be that there are other giftable items in your stock that experience a spike during the holiday season, or around other seasonal events that you can use as a starting point.
Using and analysing historical data within your inventory system for these kinds of items can help you better plan ahead for further seasonal stock-ups.
Make use of down season sales
Determine the best times to stock up and save by keeping track of your suppliers’ down season sales. This way you can make savings and maximise profit.
Bundle products together
Whether you discover certain products regularly being bought together (e.g christmas trees and decorations, wrapping paper, cards and gift labels etc.), or notice that some seasonal items are slower to sell than others, consider creating bundles of items to add value for your customers and shift more product.
You provide better value for your customers, make the same if not more profit, and ensure that as much seasonal stock is shifted as possible — it’s a win-win all around! Alternatively, you could offer free gift-wrapping options when customers spend over a certain amount, or when certain items are bought together.
Practice a management method that works for you
There are several different seasonal stock inventory management methods you can use, but we’ll summarise just a few.
- Just-in-time inventory system (JIT): Receiving inventory in small amounts as needed, as close as possible to when they’re needed.
- First in, First out (FIFO): The stock that comes in first, is the first to be sold. I.e older inventory gets shipped to customers before new inventory.
- Last in, First out (LIFO): The opposite of the above, the last stock to come in is the first thing to be sold.
- ABC analysis: A = high-value products that generate the most profit, B = mid-tier, average sales; C = low tier, low sales. Items are ranked based on demand, cost, risk etc and ordered, stored, and distributed accordingly, prioritising the products and services that are most profitable and/or beneficial to the success of your business
- Economic Ordering Quantity: Taking into account demand, ordering cost, and holding cost when ordering inventory to ensure to most efficient ordering strategy that meets demand while minimising holding and storage costs.
Each inventory management system has its pros and cons, so as ever, see which works best for your business and the systems you already have in place.
Consider taking pre-orders
For more risky seasonal stock options that may result in dead or difficult to shift stock if not managed correctly, consider taking pre-orders. This is great for items like calendars, year planners and journals etc. You can then use information from your pre-orders to gauge appetite for similar seasonal products.
Timing is everything
Ultimately, when it comes to managing seasonal stock, timing plays a huge part in success. For this reason, it’s more important than ever to find an inventory management system that works for you, and determine a plan for how you plan to roll out and market your seasonal stock to customers. This can include everything from your seasonal store layout, to your social media and email marketing plan for the festive season.
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