It doesn’t matter if it’s the holiday shopping season, the rush to get kids back in school, or a certain point in the year because of another industry; every warehouse will experience peak seasons at some point.
There are untold numbers of words written on the topic of how to get ready for specific high points in sales, but the question remains: how do you even know what those high points are? Do you have a way of recognising sudden spikes in sales, even if they only last for a short period of time? And what actions do you take when you reach those peaks?
In the following, we have compiled a few strategies that can help you determine when your peak sales periods are, how to best prepare for them, and what to do in the event that you are caught off guard by their arrival:
Determine the factors that contribute to the “high season”
The most straightforward approach to getting ready for sales peaks is to first determine when they occur and what causes them. Is there a particular time of year that tends to be exceptionally busy for your company, and does this season tend to occur around the same time every year? Do you only periodically stock a single product that has a tendency to move more units than the others? Or is there just one order that seems to throw everything into a state of disarray every time?
To stay one step ahead of sales spikes, it is helpful to have an understanding of the factors that contribute to them. Keep an eye on sales throughout the year to determine when these peaks occur and make an effort to determine why they occur – certain products, certain times of the year – so that you can take the necessary precautions (acquiring right merchandising solutions from shopfitting suppliers, for example) to prepare for them when the cycles come back around.
Retain all relevant data
This ties in with the step that came before it, but the data that you store needs to be comprehensive. Review all of the previous data, including sales metrics, inventory levels, ordering metrics (such as how long it takes to fulfil certain orders), peak times of the day for order influx and fulfilment, and so on. When preparing for peak seasons, this will allow you to better process what sales occur at what times and how those sales affect your company as a whole. You can also get an idea on the type and quantity of merchandising solutions you will need from your shopfitting suppliers.
Consider revising your strategies for merchandising and inventory planning
Reviewing how you handle merchandising and inventory in order to account for increases in sales is the next step after determining the factors that contribute to your peak sales seasons. This will help you better prepare your business for future growth. Are your sales consistently close to where you planned to be when you first bought inventory? Have you run into any significant problems with your merchandising solutions or storage capacity that have required you to purchase additional warehouse shelving or wire shelves from your shopfitting suppliers? Do you frequently find that you have a large quantity of unused stock that needs to be kept for an extended period of time? Review your inventory management strategies with the end goal in mind of reducing overstock and making sure that you always have as much of each item as you need to sell without having a lot of leftovers (or being caught short-handed), and adjust your ordering levels accordingly.
Create brand new methods of handling orders whenever necessary.
After you have determined your busiest times of the year and the products that are most in demand, the next step that you should take is to improve the way that you process orders and keep inventory. You don’t need us to tell you how complicated the order handling process can become; however, there are a few key items that you should focus on, including the following:
- Various methods of receiving: Are you meeting your key performance indicators (KPIs) for the amount of time it takes to correctly receive, stock, and track incoming items? Were you at least able to remove all of the incoming product from the docks every night, or was your team so spread out that you had to leave some things behind in order to concentrate on other areas?
- Selecting Approaches: Check to see if everything is located where it should be. (Or do the layouts of your inventory sometimes lead customers in the wrong direction?) Is it the case that a significant number of things go missing, and if this is the case, does it tend to be the same thing each time, or does it feel more like a string of unrelated accidents? Are there other factors that may be causing the delays in picking, such as crowded aisleways or problems with the equipment?
- Returns: What’s the deal with all these items being sent back? Is it because of problems with the vendor, problems with the item itself, or problems with the way orders are handled (such as sending the wrong item, etc.)?
Your responses to these questions will help you understand what part your ordering process plays in the larger strategy you use to manage peak sales and how you can streamline everything going forward.