Scary Christmas

Typically By September merchants are getting frantic about being prepared for the all-important holiday season. Did we order enough inventory? Too much? Is it the right product? Do we have enough seasonal staff? Have we trained them sufficiently?

It’s safe to say that merchants are plenty stressed right now. But this year the fall/holiday pressure seems to be more on the front end to land the order, rather than on the back end to fulfill it.

Because it’s not going to be easy to get people to part with their cash. After not spending for a year or more, consumers have realized that they don’t need that much stuff.

Their kids don’t necessarily require a whole new back-to-school wardrobe, last year’s Halloween decorations will do just fine, and extravagant holiday gift spending is a thing of the past, at least for now. (Even if you can afford it, it’s out of fashion to be splurging — frugality is the new black.)

Where does all this leave the merchants? Pretty scared. At press time, back-to-school shopping should have been well underway; it doesn’t even seem to have started yet. Consumer surveys say spending will be down this year.

Retailers aren’t taking any chances on overbuying. After last year, when many got stuck with tons of unsold goods, more merchants are carrying less inventory.

If spending does rebound more than expected, stores may start running out of merchandise. This could be an opportunity for direct merchants, who are better at forecasting inventory and typically better prepared to provide seasonal service.

(If anything, multichannel marketers are guilty of carrying too much inventory — see Curt Barry’s article for more.)

To make sure your operation is ship-shape before the season starts, check out the article “Peak season planning”. Fulfillment expert Bill Kuipers offers several short-term, low-tech strategies and tactics that you can put in place during the next few weeks.

Let’s just hope that you are, in fact, overwhelmed with a crush of holiday orders this year, and that you will have the need to put some of these strategies in place.

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