How to Manage a Seasonal Supply Chain

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Supply chains are the backbone to the success of any business, large or small. That’s why it is extremely important to ensure all processes in your supply chain work as effectively and productively as possible.

Managing your supply chain can become increasingly difficult to manage when it comes to seasonal fluctuations in demand. The changing of the seasons often entails many unpredictable increases and decreases in demand for different products, and business owners need be proactive in preparing for this as busy or slow seasons approach.

Analyse the Data

The holiday season and times like Christmas and Black Friday, or even the summer school holiday period, mean that your demand statistics will fluctuate dramatically. Increases in demand can obviously be beneficial for sales, but only if you know when they are coming and what to stock up on.

For this reason, it is vital that you analyse historical demand data in order to ascertain when demand will peak and when it may wane. By analysing data from past seasons, you can identify trends by breaking down averages into smaller increments and paying close attention to seasonal spikes. In the case of perishables, you must also factor in expiration dates, shelf life, and waste potential.

Doing so will mean you are adequately prepared for peaks and troughs in demand to avoid wastage through over-stocking. Likewise, you will be prepared for increased demand in fast-moving items, and customers won’t be disappointed. This preparation will ensure that your supply chain runs effectively during the changing of the seasons.

Communicate with Staff

It is advisable to hold a meeting with all staff dedicated to explaining the data you have just assessed. Tell them what increases and decreases you expect and when, so that they are prepared. It may also be worth giving existing staff members a training refresher and hiring temporary staff if you think it will be necessary based on the data.

Allocate jobs wisely; give newcomers simpler jobs and leave the more complicated tasks to employees who are trained in the area or know the task well. This way, you will ensure that your supply chain runs as smoothly as possible during the spikes in demand, and during the slower seasons too.


If your primary suppliers are offshore, you may want to consider taking on some additional suppliers in closer proximity to where you are based. This is because offshore suppliers generally have longer lead times, so if you desperately need certain stock in a short time frame, they may not necessarily be reliable.

During seasonal fluctuations, adding short-term vendors locally gives you the ability to fill last-minute orders and ensure production shipments flow seamlessly. The extra cost will offset the losses you would sustain from shortages, and your supply chain will run smoothly and effectively.

Automate Stock Taking

If you haven’t switched from manual to automated processes for stock take already, it is a good idea to make the switch before the unpredictability of season changes. Technology like barcode scanners can help you track best-selling items more closely and in real time and reduce the mistakes that inevitably occur with manual counts and spreadsheets.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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