Changing With the Seasons: Managing Inventory Based On Seasonal Demand

When it comes to selling seasonal merchandise such as shorts, snow boots, or costumes, proper planning is always key. This is just as true with your retail system as it is with your ordering methodologies or advertising buys.

Making the appropriate preparations within your retail software can save time, money and confusion when the upcoming season dictates a reset for the racks and shelves in your store. Identifying the merchandise in the system allows for easy monitoring and adjustments. Creating a markdown schedule helps to seamlessly turnover inventory. And finally, what considerations should be made it comes time to reorder next year?

Identify the Merchandise

Tagging your merchandise within your retail software is helpful in a myriad of ways, one of which is the ability to quickly identify seasonal product within your inventory. Whether you identify by season, by year, by vendor, or other methods, having a clear view of the current season’s product is critical in maintaining optimal inventory turnover. A good system for identifying product also comes in handy when product goes into storage for the remainder of the year. For example, when it’s time to reorder for Winter next year, having an accurate count of jackets and styles already in inventory can prevent over-ordering.

Scheduling Markdowns

As the end (of Summer, of Winter, of Back to School, etc…) approaches, you must have a plan in place for marking down seasonal items to clear space on the floor for incoming products. Markdown strategies vary based on business needs, but the end goal is always the same – maximizing turnover while minimizing margin erosion. Implementing markdowns within your retail system allows you to stay consistent with pricing as well as to compile reports to determine the best timing and price points for future reference.


The majority of retailers that deal in seasonal merchandise place orders on a cyclical basis. Although there can always be a variance in demand from year to year (tastes in fashion, new models/designs, etc.), much can be gleaned from the previous year’s sales data to determine what should be ordered for the coming year.  Having a robust reporting system within your retail software allows you to easily pull a variety of customized reports to quickly and easily determine what has been historically successful, and what needs to be left off the PO.

What About the Web?

One thing that has not been mentioned specifically here is ecommerce. The good news is, this process works just as well for online planning – whether you run web and in-store promotions concurrently, or if you have a completely different product mix and promotions strategy for both channels.

The ultimate takeaway here is to plan ahead. Preparing seasonal demand always ensures you have the right product on the shelves for every season.

Michele Salerno is Director of Marketing for Celerant Technology