How Retailers Prepare For The Holiday Season

Allison Champion
4 min read
November 21, 2018
Modified: March 20, 2023

The holiday season is full of cheer, presents, and tasty food for consumers across the country.

However, for the retailers charged with keeping store shelves stocked with inventory, the holiday season is a frenzied scramble to forecast, service, and adapt.

How Do Retailers Prepare For The Holiday Season

If you’re a retailer looking to sail through the holiday season without any significant disruptions or hiccups, then you probably haven’t had the pleasure of working in the retail business during the holiday season.

The holiday season brings joy and happiness to most Americans, but it also delivers high consumer and market demands, unpredictable weather, rapidly changing buyer forecasts and unexpected delays in the supply chain.

As a retailer, the best way to ensure a smooth transition through the holidays is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Extend Shipping Cut-Off Date

The two most important shopping weeks of the holiday season are the final week before Christmas (accounting for 12-14% of overall transaction), and the Cyber 5 stretch.

The Cyber 5 stretch refers to the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday that are critical to driving sales over the holiday season.

Top retailers prepare for these hectic shopping periods by extending shipping cut-off dates for as long as possible.

Extending the shipping cut-off date enables a brand to increase its expected shipping allowance and capitalize on a larger section of final order volume.

It also decreases the time from when a shopper confirms their purchase online, and when the order is shipped.

Stress-Test Your Infrastructure

Purchase intent is high during the holiday season which makes it a great time to capitalize on consumer interest in your brand.

Most retailers experience strong sales performance during the holiday seasons which can put an overwhelming amount of stress on any system.

Before the holiday season, e-commerce retailers should stress test their systems and ensure they will have the ability to adapt to and overcome the excess stress exerted by the outsized demand.

Forecast From Last Year’s Data

Accurate forecasting during the holiday season is exceptionally important. It reveals consumer buying patterns and enables retailers to predict the sales and plan for a surge in consumer demand.

Retailers should utilize their sales data from previous holiday seasons to establish deals with vendors and place bulk orders at a discount.

Discounted bulk orders enable retailers to offer better holiday deals without taking a loss, and ensures enough inventory for the holidays.

Secure Transportation Ahead of Time

If you think finding transportation for your palletized inventory is difficult throughout the rest of the year, then you are in for a surprise when the holidays roll around.

Come October, truck markets dry up faster than mugs of eggnog at the family Christmas party.

Top retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, and Costco buy up all the available trucking capacity to ensure they will have the logistics infrastructure to deliver orders to their customers.

To avoid being left in the cold without the means to ship products to customers, retailers should reach out to their shipping providers before the holiday season to secure transportation.

Don’t forget to utilize shipping data collected from previous holiday seasons to forecast your logistics requirements accurately.

Develop Battle Plans

In the world of retail, things tend to go from bad to worse during the holidays. It is essential for retailers to develop battle plans and prepare for a worst-case scenario.

Weather Related Shipping Delays – It is not at all uncommon for the weather to delay the supply chain.

The winter regularly buries retailers, trucks, and fulfillment centers in feet of snow that shuts down operations and halts shipping of any kind.

Retailers should be prepared with alternate shipping, storage, and inventory options for when the weather invariably exerts itself on your holiday operations.

Let’s not forget that treacherous conditions may also prevent your team from making it work. Retailers should have a plan such a scenario as well.

Demand is Higher Than Forecasted – What is your team going to do if they run out of inventory? How do you plan on compensating customers who were oversold?

These questions and any related to out of stocks missed transfers, and broken vendor promises should be answered before the holidays.

Systems Crash – Does your team have the ability to receive, fill, and ship orders without an order fulfillment or transportation management system?

Retailers should prepare for a systems crash and train their employees in alternate methods of collecting, filling, and shipping customer orders.

In Summary

The holiday season can bring high sales, increased brand awareness, and define a company’s strategy for the on the coming year.

Therefore, it is essential that retailers do everything they can to prepare for the frenzy of the holidays and ensure that their infrastructure, their forecast and their team are ready for anything.

Flowspace can assist retailers with their holiday warehousing and fulfillment needs. Get a free quote today!

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Written By:

flowspace author Allison Champion

Allison Champion

Allison Champion leads marketing communication at Flowspace, where she works to develop content that addresses the unique challenges facing modern brands in omnichannel eCommerce. She has more than a decade of experience in content development and marketing.