The holiday season is a bustling time for online stores, marked by an upsurge in sales, increased customer traffic and a flurry of orders that can even be enough to bewilder large scale businesses. To ensure your online store operates smoothly during this festive period, you’ll need to master inventory management so that you’re not overwhelmed with stock or struggle to meet consumer demand.
Every business is different. For example, perishables cannot be stored in the same way as non-perishables. Depending on the size and nature of your products, you will need to figure out the best way to ensure you have good stock control and management during peak trading.
To get you started, we’ve developed these essential tips to organise your inventory effectively and maximise your sales this festive period.
Inventory Management for Large Businesses
Forecast Demand and Plan Ahead
To avoid stockouts or overstock situations, analyse historical sales data and forecast demand. You can do this by utilising inventory management software or tools that offer forecasting capabilities. Or simply look back at what was popular this time last year and order or produce your stock to match.
Optimise Warehouse Layout
Larger businesses often come with a large warehouse to store their stock. During the holiday season, these warehouses can become overcrowded, making it harder to pick items, resulting in longer lead times and more mistakes. Categorise your products based on demand, seasonality or popularity. Ensure the most popular products are easily available.
Real-time Inventory Tracking
Implement an inventory management system that offers real-time tracking capabilities. This enables you to monitor stock levels and sales continuously, providing insights into which products are selling rapidly and when to restock. Update inventory numbers on your website regularly to prevent overselling and disappointment for customers.
Monitor and Adapt
Keep a close eye on inventory levels and adjust strategies based on real-time sales data.
Forecasting is great, but people might not be interested in the same things last year as they are this year. By adapting quickly to changing market trends or unforeseen circumstances, you’ll ensure you can maximise your sales and keep your customers happy.
Inventory Management for Etsy-style Side Hustles
Plan and Prioritise
It’s a lot harder for smaller businesses to keep on top of a surge in sales during the Christmas period, especially when they could just be a team of one. Create a production schedule and focus on popular items or seasonal offerings to align with market demands. Don’t overwhelm your business and set a limit on what is possible and what isn’t. The last thing you want is to overcommit and disappoint your customers.
Organised Workspace and Materials
Maintain a tidy workspace for efficient production and packaging. Keep essential materials and supplies well-organised and easily accessible. If possible, consider renting a small storage space for the festive season to help keep on top of extra stock.
YouTube and TikTok are great places to look for inspiration on storage and organisation. Many small businesses utilise these platforms to promote their business while sharing what it’s like to own a business. Check out the below video for a glimpse at how one small business owner organises their inventory:
Offer Pre-orders and Limited Editions
Manage inventory effectively by offering pre-orders for high-demand items or exclusive limited editions. Pre-orders help gauge demand accurately, allowing you to stock inventory more precisely. Limited edition offerings create a sense of urgency, driving sales without risking excessive stockpiling. You’ll know exactly how much you need and can start work on packing and filling ahead of the cutoff delivery dates.
Collaboration and Support
Collaborate with other small businesses for cross-promotion or joint offerings during peak seasons. You could also outsource fulfilment or shipping if overwhelmed with orders, ensuring timely deliveries and keeping your inventory out of your workspace.
Inventory Tips For All Businesses
Prepare for Post-Holiday Period
Plan for the post-holiday period by strategising how to manage excess stock or handling returns and exchanges. Consider running promotions to clear out remaining holiday inventory and evaluate customer feedback for insights into future inventory decisions. It’s also extra beneficial to analyse inventory performance to learn how you can improve the following year and avoid any mistakes.
By ‘inventory’, we don’t just mean the products you sell. This also includes all the packaging you need to ship your products. When completing your sales forecast for the festive season, you will also need to liaise with your packaging manufacturer to discuss any extra stock you need over the Christmas period.Consider using a local packaging supplier so that any additional items you need at short notice can have a quick turnaround.
You should also consider the packaging for any limited edition products so that you can order bespoke cardboard boxes to suit the differences in your product range.
As the festive period approaches, efficient inventory management is the key to success for businesses of all sizes. Remember, the key is not just in selling products but in managing your inventory effectively to ensure a seamless and delightful shopping experience for your customers. Implementing these strategies can help alleviate stress, streamline operations and optimise sales, ensuring a successful and joyous holiday season.