If we’re being honest, it’s a little too late to start strategizing your holiday product lineup. Unless you’re some kind of wizard, there is little chance of getting a product from concept to package in time for this year’s holiday season. Retailers have long had their assortments chosen and ordered, and now you’re seeing the fruits of those decisions on the shelf.

Though the time for this year has passed, we are in a prime time for suppliers to start thinking about next year.

You’re probably saying to yourself, next year? Really? We’re already talking about next year and we haven’t even finished this year? Isn’t it a little early?

No, it’s not too early.

Yes, really.

No, I’m not jumping the gun, nor am I one of those people who puts up her holiday decorations in October.

Yes, there are things you can do now that will help your new products down the road.

What are those things? Well, here are a few ideas….

  1.     Keep close tabs on what works and what doesn’t work for you. The best place to start your research for next year is right in your own backyard. Or rather, your own company/manufacturing facility/office. Once the holiday buzz fizzles, look at the numbers, and see where you did well, and where you did not so well.

Look beyond the numbers, too, and look at the information you can glean from talking to actual humans. Check in with your customers, both retailers and consumers. What did they like? What did they not like?

  1.     Check out what your competitors are doing. What do you like about their products (come on, there has to be something)? What do you think they did well?

And then figure out how you can do it better.

  1.     Research the trends in other categories. No matter the type of product you produce, you should be well-versed in categories outside your own. That’s just smart business, because it provides insight into where products might be able to cross over. Maybe next year you talk to a retailer about a display grouping with complementary products that will increase sales for all. Maybe a flavor trend in one category sparks a daring new option for your own product. The possibilities are out there, you just have to find them, and then tailor them into something that works for your product line up.

Like I said, it’s too late for this year, but next year is a blank slate. How you color that slate is up to you, but the time to start thinking about it is now.

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