October 18, 2023

Trick or Treat in Seasonal Stock: Navigating the Haunting Challenges of Retail

Inventory management



Managing inventory is an everlasting challenge for retailers, but the difficulty is amplified during the seasons when consumer demands fluctuate. As the spooky festivities approach, the challenge of keeping items in stock becomes a thrilling roller coaster ride. Costume crazes, last-minute scares, and the ever-evolving trends in Halloween decor cast a spell on inventory management. In this article, we explore the challenges faced by retailers in keeping accurate inventory during the spooky season and beyond, and discuss potential solutions to mitigate these issues.

Fluctuating Consumer Demand: One of the primary challenges during the Halloween season is the unpredictable nature of consumer demand. Seasonal trends can significantly influence what products customers are seeking. For retailers, this means constantly adjusting inventory levels to meet the evolving needs of consumers. This dynamic demand makes it difficult to strike the right balance between overstocking and understocking items. The last thing retailers want to have is a deadstock on the night of October 31. Ensuring a seamless customer experience and maximizing revenue hinges on the availability of real-time data to keep items consistently in stock and in the right location. Dependence on precise and close to real time data empowers stores to stand out in the fiercely competitive omnichannel landscape. Having the right strategy in selling seasonal general merchandise can lead to higher sales and profitability.

FMI: How Retailers Can Take Back Seasonal GM Sales

Limited Storage Space: The influx of seasonal merchandise often strains available storage space to fulfill online order, BOPIS and in-store purchases. Retailers may find themselves compelled to store excess inventory in less accessible locations, leading to discrepancies between recorded inventory and the actual quantities on the shelves. This challenge is exacerbated when dealing with seasonal items. Empowering retailers with a clear understanding of the dynamics on their in-store shelves transforms their physical space into an easier to manage digital storefront. This means that these real-time insights gained from monitoring shelf activity not only optimize in-store operations, but also enable a seamless integration between brick-and-mortar and online sales channels. This synergy enhances the retailer’s capacity to swiftly and accurately meet online orders, creating a more responsive and customer-centric fulfillment process.

Human Error: The manual aspects of inventory management are prone to human error, especially during busy seasons when staff is under increased pressure. Miscounts, misplacements, and data entry mistakes can lead to inaccurate records, making it challenging for retailers to maintain precise control over their inventory. Shoppers coming to the store ask three questions:

  • Is the item I’m looking for in stock?
  • Where can I find it in store?
  • How much is the item?

For the retail industry to function seamlessly, it is crucial to have these answers even before the customer sets foot in the store. Typically, it requires the efforts of 2-3 associates in large stores to manually check inventories, a task fraught with challenges. Associates, frequently interrupted by customer inquiries, often struggle to complete the inventory process accurately, leading to potential data inaccuracies.

Here’s where the game-changing inventory scanning robots come into play. These robots navigate the aisles, collecting valuable data precisely when associates need them most. By seamlessly complementing human efforts, these robots not only streamline the inventory process, but also significantly enhance its accuracy, offering a solution to the perennial challenges of seasonal retail chaos. They  free up time from associates to answer the questions for customers and help them to find the right merchandise.

Seasonal Trends and Short-Lived Products: Some products experience a surge in popularity during specific seasons, but lose demand rapidly afterward. Predicting these trends accurately is challenging, and retailers may find themselves with excess inventory after the season has passed, leading to potential losses. When stores gain access to real-time information, they wield the power to promptly adjust pricing or initiate promotions on specific items. This agility enables them to respond swiftly to customer dynamics, capitalize on emerging trends, and meet customer expectations. The ability to make informed, on-the-fly decisions enhances not only operational efficiency but also the store’s competitive edge, ensuring a nimble and responsive approach to serving their customers.

Customer Returns and Exchanges: Seasonal buying often leads to an increase in returns and exchanges. Managing the influx of returned items and updating inventory records accordingly poses a further challenge, as this process can be time-consuming and prone to errors.

Accurately maintaining inventory on shelves during the season is undoubtedly a formidable task for retailers. However, with a combination of advanced technology, strategic planning, and adaptable supply chain management, retailers  can navigate these challenges more effectively. Recognizing the unique difficulties posed by seasonal fluctuations is the first step towards developing robust inventory management strategies that can ensure both customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. By staying vigilant and proactive, retailers can turn the seasonal struggle into an opportunity for growth and success in an ever-changing marketplace.

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Photo by michal dziekonski on Unsplash
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