As each new season approaches, your small business will want to generate the kind of excitement and anticipation that will draw your customers into your store to check out what new seasonal products are available.
Creating a proactive product rollout plan to introduce the new season will benefit your business in a number of ways. Not only will it boost foot traffic, but the increased activity will expose customers to deals on products from the previous season that haven’t sold out yet while also helping you launch early sales for the coming season’s inventory.
Seasonal products can be a great source of profit for your store during that particular season. If you don’t plan ahead, however, and equip your business with the resources and inventory to support seasonal trends, then you could either lack the items your customers need or end up with an excess of products no one wants.
Small businesses can be especially affected by the ups-and-downs of seasonal demand, and as such, they should be extra attentive to these sorts of trends. Here are some strategies that will help you offer your customers the right products, at the right time, and for the right price.
Make a Forecast
To help your small business find success in every season, you’ll want to plot out a sales “forecast” that will give you an estimate of the kinds of products your customers will want at any given time.
Making a sales forecast for your business can look a number of ways. If you’re a visual learner, then taking the time to create an illustrative spreadsheet or graph can be a great way to track the fluctuations in your business’ sales.
If you’d rather have a system do the work for you, then there are options for that too. Inventory management programs can help carefully track and manage your available inventory so you always know what to have in stock.
Whatever you use to make a forecast for your sales, always remember that trends are never static. A tool that is popular one month may not be the next, or it may be popular year-round for no easily discernible reason.
Other factors that contribute to your seasonal forecast include:
Consumer spending statistics
Broader industry statistics
Last year’s sales numbers
Intelligence from the local business community
Customer feedback or recommendations
You need to be flexible and adaptable to the behaviors of your customers, not the other way around. So pay attention to what your customers are purchasing, when they’re purchasing it, and if possible, why they’re purchasing it at that time.
Social media is a reliable method for this, as it allows you to monitor what the community is doing and what kinds of products they might be looking for when it comes to seasonal activities. Position your store as a local “supply center” for the community, so that whenever someone needs a product, they know to come to you.
Low Demand = Low Prices
Once you have a clear forecast for the ebb and flow of your seasonal sales, you can start stocking your business with the products it’ll need for each consecutive season.
If winter is on the horizon, for example, your hardware shop is going to want to be well-stocked with a diverse variety of snow shovels and snow brooms.
If you wait until the first snowfall to stock your inventory, you’ll be in trouble. You’ll not only need to pay a higher price to the distributor, but you might also be late in meeting the needs of your customers, forcing them to go elsewhere.
To avoid this risk, try stocking your inventory with seasonal products in the off-season months. It’s rarely a bad thing to be prepared, so instead of waiting for the winter—or even Fall—months to stock up on snow shovels and other cold-weather merchandise, purchase them in July when demand is basically non-existent. Many suppliers will even offer preseason discounts and incentives.
This will allow you to buy a lot of product at a lower cost, which will then help you earn a higher profit in the winter months when you sell the products at a premium. While you will have to make sure you have the space to store your products during the off-season, this approach ensures that you never have to deal with production constraints or a lack-of-stock from your store or even your suppliers.
Keep as Little Seasonal Stock as Possible
Even if you’ve successfully used a sales forecast to plan ahead and made sure to stock up on the right products at the right times, there’s always a chance that you’ll be left with an excess stock of seasonal products.
If you’ve done the right planning, then your leftover stock shouldn’t be unmanageable. Nonetheless, you’re still going to want to get rid of it. It costs money to store products in a warehouse, and full shelves of products no one wants aren’t going to do anyone any good.
Instead, focus on selling last season’s stock at a discount so you can quickly convert that inventory into cash that you can then use to invest in the next season on the calendar. In most cases, the marketing buzz around your end-of-season discount will generate better awareness for your company and get more buyers to walk in the door, which gives you a great opportunity to grow your clientele.
When you understand how to take advantage of a seasonal inventory, you’ll equip your store with the tools it needs to provide for the needs of your customers, and in doing so, build a mutually beneficial relationship between your business and its community of customers.