Businesses love peak times. Be it online or instore shopping, there’s nothing better than hearing the sound of tills opening, credit cards swiping, or computers clicking their way through to a new purchase. But during busy periods this welcome surge in business can be overshadowed by the pain of inventory control. Not only can poorly-managed inventory lead to stressed-out staff and disorganised shop floors, but it can also lead to bad customer experiences and as a consequence, no return business. The good news is that, with a bit of thought and planning, your business can make the most out these lucrative times.
Knowledge is power
It goes without saying that effective inventory control during busy periods requires you to know your peak times. These may be obvious, for instance, if you’re an ice cream vendor, you will know to plan ahead for hot summer’s days at the beach. However, for other businesses it may be less clear. Convenience stores near stadiums or venues might experience peaks in line with sporting fixtures or concerts, which means business owners need to keep their fingers on the pulse.
Likewise, know your customer base. This will help you understand the stock that is essential during busy periods. Whether customer demands are predictable (like heaters in winter) or unpredictable (like a new must-have toy before Christmas), successful peak-season inventory control requires customer insight.
In order to keep your inventory under control, it’s essential to forecast not only what you need, but also when you need it and for how long. This might include renting extra storage space to house additional stocks, and even hiring personnel on a temporary basis to help move it. Remember, if you’re expecting a busy period such as a seasonal holiday, your competitors are too. Make sure you’re primed and ready to organise additional staff and services well in advance.
Another good idea is to spring clean your warehouse or storage space to ensure there is enough room for the stock you will sell during peak times. Dead stock will only clutter your warehouse making inventory management a more demanding task than it needs to be. For instance, clear out the rain jackets and woolly jumpers during summer, and put the sunhats and swimming costumes within easy reach.
Peak times can also create challenges for businesses with an online presence. There is nothing worse than making an internet order, and getting to the final click only to find the product is out of stock. Particularly during busy periods, it is important to manage the expectations of your online customer base. This can be done by ensuring your website inventory is updated regularly, which will make sure your business accurately represents the available stock.
For new businesses in particular, hitting the right spot between meeting customer demand and over- or under-investing in stock is a fine balance. And on top of this, customers can be fickle in terms of their buying habits and product preferences.
One thing businesses can do to make smart inventory control decisions is to keep a record of previous peaks. Keeping track of what went well or not-so-well will help your business hone its inventory control practices, meaning you can get the most out of the busiest times.