Holiday Inventory Management: Best Practices to Follow

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The holiday buying season is the most wonderful time of the year for retail sales. Customers are actively shopping for gifts, holiday items, ingredients for festive recipes, party supplies, and more. In fact, many businesses receive 25% of annual revenue during the holiday sales period. With proper preparation and inventory management, retailers can ride the seasonal buying wave to significant profits.

Yet without adequate planning, they may end up missing out. Shelves may sit empty from stockouts, customers may be disappointed by the lack of availability, and sales may plummet right when they have peak potential.

Retailers can avoid these holiday inventory nightmares by analyzing past sales trends, planning inventory intentionally, utilizing inventory software, offering preorders, and keeping customers updated on availability. Here are five key best practices to follow.

The single most important thing retailers can do to prep for holiday demand surges is to analyze what happened in prior years. There are several key questions to ask when reviewing historical sales data:

  • What were the best-selling products last holiday season? Factor in classics that sell every year, as well as trending items that may vary annually.
  • When exactly did peak sales periods occur? Retailers should recognize general high volume from Thanksgiving through Christmas and pinpoint short windows of extreme demand. For example, popular toys may sell out quickly right after Black Friday, so inventory needs to be sufficient before this period.
  • How much growth can be projected this year? Factoring modest growth projections into inventory plans allows for increased consumer demand without excessive overstocking.

Equipped with insights from past holiday seasons, retailers can identify must-have inventory and periods of peak purchasing to guide this year’s plans.

Plan Inventory Quantities Intelligently

Armed with sales data history, retailers can make strategic choices about inventory quantities to stock for the impending holiday season:

  • Ordering extra stock of proven bestsellers with longer lead times to build up inventory buffers in advance
  • Securing secondary supplier sources as backup for top products to tap into should primary vendor stock run out
  • Planning for safety stock by ordering extra inventory cushion beyond projected quantities needed to accommodate unexpected surges

Careful planning should balance having enough product availability to meet possible sales demand spikes without over-purchasing out of fear of running out. An intelligent inventory plan allows for profit maximization, not just stockpiling.

See also: Purchase Order And Inventory Management Software Retailers

Implement Inventory Management Software

Sophisticated inventory management software plays an invaluable role in tracking stock levels in real-time. Features like setting automatic reorder points, placing replenishment orders with the click of a button, and configuring alerts for low stock positions can vastly simplify holiday stock management.

Cloud-based software centralizes cross-channel inventory data instead of tracking eCommerce, retail, and wholesale stock in silos. This provides accurate visibility enterprise-wide. Automation handles mundane yet mission-critical tasks like order placement and shipment tracking so retailers can focus on value-added activities.

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Offer Preorders

Even the best inventory plans may still result in stockouts during periods of extreme holiday demand. Offering preorders can help retailers capture additional sales by allowing consumers to order currently unavailable products for future delivery.

Sweetening preorder deals with discounts or complimentary gifts also incentivizes customers to commit to purchases without an immediate product exchange. For retailers, this shifts demand to before or after peak seasons.

A preorder strategy delivers wins on both sides—more sales for stores and guaranteed product access for customers. Just be sure to communicate expected delivery timeframes accurately at checkout.

Provide Real-Time Online Inventory Status

Nothing is worse than finding the perfect gift online only to add it to your cart and get notified it is no longer in stock. Disappointing out-of-stock situations after customers have already invested time and mental effort into a purchase creates frustration and abandons sales.

Retailers can preempt lost conversions by prominently displaying real-time inventory availability across all channels—both on product listing pages and especially at add-to-cart points. Syncing inventory data from backend systems to the front-facing eCommerce platform should occur continuously using automated tools for accurate stock status.

For instance, if a product in high-demand sells out, this feature immediately triggers increased visibility by showing it as out of stock online. This reduces disappointment and retains the relationship with that customer for future purchases.

Train Efficiently Your Stores Staff

Successfully navigating inventory levels during peak times requires proper planning, forecasting, and execution from all store staff. It’s important to Invest in comprehensive holiday inventory management training for employees at all levels.

Retail staff must understand expected sales volumes for promotional and seasonal products. Equipped with this knowledge, staff can better monitor inventory counts, identify fast-moving items that may require replenishment, and alert store leadership when popular products are running low. Clean, organized backroom storage and streamlined processes for bringing inventory to the sales floor rely on proper training. Workers must have the skills to accurately fulfill omnichannel orders and ship online purchases promptly amid heightened order volumes.

For store managers, training uses analytics and KPIs for optimal decision-making. Managers should understand when and how to request inventory transfers from other locations to meet local demand. Guidance on efficient workforce planning, merchandising, and promotional planning is also key. With growing consumer expectations for BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In Store) and curbside pickup services, store staff must seamlessly integrate digital and in-store inventory to deliver top-notch omnichannel fulfillment.

Read also: The Dos and Donts of Retail Employee Training

Key Areas of Training for Store Staff:

There are a few broad areas for all retail employees to focus, particularly during the holiday season:

  • Inventory management systems: Staff should be trained using inventory management software to track stock levels, place orders, and generate reports.
  • Product knowledge: Staff should have a thorough understanding of the products they are selling, including features, benefits, and pricing.
  • Order fulfillment: Staff should be trained on picking and packing orders accurately and efficiently.
  • Customer service: Staff should be trained to provide excellent customer service, answer questions, and resolve issues effectively.
  • Holiday promotions and trends: Staff should be aware of upcoming holiday promotions and trends to assist customers and maximize sales opportunities.

Streamlining Holiday Inventory Management With KORONA POS

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KORONA POS ensures seamless operations by providing automatic reorder points, allowing businesses to maintain optimal stock levels effortlessly. The system’s multi-location inventory management capability ensures accurate tracking across various stores, enhancing efficiency for businesses with multiple outlets.

Detailed inventory analytics provide valuable insights, enabling retailers to make informed decisions and optimize their stock for increased sales during the holiday rush. Additionally, KORONA POS simplifies logistics with integrated shipment tracking and facilitates professional presentation with the ability to print labels and tags.

With a comprehensive suite of tools, KORONA POS is an invaluable asset for retailers seeking to enhance their holiday inventory management, making the season more profitable and stress-free. Click here to get to know KORONA POS with a personalized product demo. 

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Written By

Mahougnon Martial Amoussou

Passionate about SEO and Content Marketing. Martial also writes about retail trends and tips for KORONA POS. He loves NBA games and is a big fan of the Golden State Warriors.