Holidays, and the downtime that typically follows them, are usually anything but for retailers and the product providers that stock their shelves; as most people are preparing to wind down, the consumer sector is gearing up to serve them. The pressure gets intense in most markets at this time of year: Europeans may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but the Black Friday and Cyber Monday retail bonanzas that follow the U.S. holiday in November are a big deal in the U.K. and the Netherlands. And of course, Christmas follows shortly after.
For businesses selling their products to retailers that are preparing for a surge in demand, it is vital to be ready. The RangeMe platform can help your business connect with retailers around the world, including in the U.K. and the Netherlands, but those retailers will expect you to be prepared for what is likely to be their busiest time of the year.
Indeed, the holiday season starts ever earlier. Research from Amazon and Kantar suggests 42% of consumers in the U.K. have already begun Christmas shopping. The research also points to data from SEO Clarity suggesting that last year, searches for “Christmas gifts” more than doubled between September and October, and then quadrupled between October and November.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will add to the pressure this year. With global supply chains still disrupted by the crisis and logistics providers struggling to move goods around the world, you will need to be on top of demand and supply for your products. Think about the following as you plan for the holidays:
Are your inventories sufficient for likely demand?
Don’t miss out on sales because you don’t have sufficient stock on hand to meet your buyers’ needs. While no business wants to tie up cash flow in excess stock, it is important to cope with peaks and troughs in demand. Talk to your customers early about their likely orders during the holiday season – how much of your product they will want and, crucially, when they will expect deliveries. Look at sales in previous years to give you some idea of what lies ahead.
What are your shippers’ requirements?
Making the sale is only half the battle – you also need to get your product out to your retail customers, wherever in the world they may be. European markets, in particular, have been hit by logistics issues related to the COVID-19 crisis in recent months, so if you’re shipping to markets such as the U.K. and the Netherlands, it is vital to have an accurate picture of how long deliveries will take. You will need to build this into your negotiations with your customers – and you may need to consider alternative logistics arrangements to get goods there on time.
Where can you increase your orders?
The holiday season offers a great opportunity to sell more to your existing customers and acquire new customers. In particular, look to leverage the data you have on previous years’ sales. Where there are seasonal spikes in sales of your goods in a particular market or with a particular customer, is where you can find data to make the case for larger orders from other retailers. RangeMe enables you to reach out to new customers, so don’t be afraid to make the same case to retailers that haven’t ordered from you in the past; many will be looking for new products to boost their seasonal ranges.
Should you offer promotional prices?
It is important to think hard about pricing at this time of year. For example, does it make sense to offer discounts for larger orders? Could promotional deals be a way to attract new retailers that have not ordered from you before? You may need to discuss pricing with customers planning their own promotional strategies for Black Friday, Christmas, and the New Year. How can you support customers while maintaining your profit margins at acceptable levels?
Do you need extra staff?
If you need to increase production to service demand in the months ahead, it is important that you have the capacity to do so. That might mean, for example, taking on more staff and hiring additional workers on temporary contracts to cover the busiest period. That also will obviously mean incurring additional costs, but these should be met by additional revenues – and you reduce the risk of letting a customer down because you can’t cope with demand.
What might COVID-19 mean for this year’s holidays?
All holiday periods are challenging, but the COVID-19 pandemic adds an additional complexity to planning. Think about whether any restrictions will affect your production capabilities. Look at logistics – will it take longer to get goods to your customers? Talk to retailers about their own plans – for example, are they planning to rely more heavily on e-commerce this year and does that have any implications for your business?
What about Easter and the summer season?
Finally, while it is easy to get fixated on the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, when European and U.S. markets do see surges in demand, now is also a good time to be looking ahead to holidays next year. You may need to stock up for several spikes, depending on the nature of your product. Easter is a busy period for European retailers, followed by the Spring bank holidays of May and June in the U.K., the Netherlands, and other European markets. The school summer holidays begin at the start of July in the Netherlands and in late July in the U.K. Being prepared for the holidays throughout the year is critical to keep up good relationships with your customers