Ahh, seasonal inventory. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.
On the one hand, seasonal lines can be wildly profitable for e-commerce sellers. And on the other?
If you don’t sell your units at just the right time, seasonal inventory can be a major drain on sales and cash flow.
And the struggle has never been more real.
During Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) 2021, out-of-stock messages were up 169% versus pre-pandemic levels, and 258% compared to two holiday seasons ago. Staying in stock during peak seasons can make or break your bottom line.
But don’t worry. We’re about to get into the nuts and bolts of why it pays to be an early bird when prepping your seasonal inventory, and the best ways to get ahead of the game.
The scoop on seasonal inventory
- Why the time to start prepping for peak season is now
- 7 tips for fuss-free seasonal inventory management
- The early bird gets the worm: Why you should start prepping for peak season now
A killer BFCM starts now. Learn more about how to get your store financially fit with SellersFi.
Why the time to start prepping for peak season is now
The new year has begun and you’ve likely got a fresh set of goals to conquer.
But no matter what your to-do list looks like, there is one top-priority task you should start on right now if you want to win in every season:
Your inventory P-R-E-P. 👏🏽👏🏽
Here are just a handful of the reasons preparation is everything when stocking seasonal items:
- Stay one step ahead of the supply chain: Logistics definitely ain’t what they used to be. Unpredictability in pricing, timing, and inventory availability means preparing seasonal stock a couple of months in advance is simply too risky.
- One-up the competition: Humans are creatures of habit. Unfortunately for them, many sellers won’t change their buying habits unless circumstances force their hand.
This creates a huge opportunity for brand owners that take action now to prepare for seasonal sales later in the year. When the stockouts happen (and they will happen), you’ll be able to swoop in and claim the sales.
- Slash inventory costs: When you prep for peak seasons early, you’ll have enough time to shop for deals before specific products become popular. And with lower product costs, come better profit margins.
- Lower your customer acquisition costs: Marketing costs have a sneaky way of jumping up as mega-events like BFCM approach. Starting your preparations ahead of time will allow you to take advantage of lower marketing costs and build a solid relationship with agencies and influencers that you can later bank on when the big dates arrive.
7 tips for fuss-free seasonal inventory management
If you have any experience selling goods during a peak holiday season, you already know traffic, sales, and your workload can go from 0 to 100 in a blink.
That’s why it’s crucial to have a ready-made and efficiency-driven strategy to get the results, minus the stock-related headaches.
Here are some proven tips to help you stay in stock during peak seasons.
Tip #1. Get ready even earlier than usual ⏲️
Most brands start prepping their seasonal inventory 2-3 months before they need it. And sure, 90 days may have worked in the past.
But today there is a laundry list of factors that can derail your plans to secure seasonal inventory, including:
- Unprecedented shipping delays
- Fast-rising freight costs
- Increasing raw material costs
- Labor shortages
- And so much more…😔
If you’re a seller who deals in seasonal products for summer or even fall, there’s not a minute to lose when securing your inventory.
Whatever the case for your brand, challenge yourself to start your seasonal stock orders earlier than usual.
This extra time will give you more leeway to solve any supply chain issues that can (and probably will) arise while helping keep costs under control. To give you a starting point, anywhere from 4 months before or earlier is a good time to start.
Tip #2. Use reliable forecasts to predict seasonal inventory demand
Even for key periods, demand can change from year to year.
It’s important not to fall back on stale past data and forecasts. To avoid stockouts and overstocks, you’ll need to accurately gauge your stock requirements for every season based on your current sales and inventory data.
Accurate forecasts will not only help you nail your stock orders, but you can also give your manufacturers and shipping carriers a heads-up so that they have more time to accommodate your requests.
One quick cautionary note: Most inventory forecasts are about as accurate as a coin toss. If you can, avoid manual forecasts like your business depends on them (because it does!).
Basic tools like spreadsheets increase your chances of making expensive forecasting mistakes. Instead, opt for an automated, or even AI-enabled, inventory forecasting system to analyze your store’s freshest data in real time.📊
Getting ahead of seasonal inventory doesn’t have to be complicated. Learn how SellerFi can help you get the working capital you need to secure the inventory shoppers want.
Tip #3. Automate repetitive stock-keeping tasks
Common supply chain bottlenecks like waiting around for authorization, purchase orders, and back-and-forth communication with suppliers can stand in the way of staying in stock during peak seasons.
To avoid these supply chain speed bumps, outsource your time-sucking stock-keeping tasks to technology.
For example, you could:
- Set up automatic approvals for shipping quotes within set parameters.
- Create core reorder points for your inventory.
- Automate stock counts, syncing refunds, returns, and incoming units.
Tip #4. Go local in your seasonal inventory sourcing 🚚
When your money-making season hits, time is of the essence. With quick access to goods, you’ll be in a great position to sweep up sales from the brands that go out of stock due to supply chain misfires and shipping delays.
Look for suppliers in your territory that can provide goods quickly. And if you really want to go for gold, why not even complete your paperwork ahead of time so you can hit the ground running?
Just remember to always vet suppliers based on their:
- Shipping times
- Product quality
- Customer service
Tip #5. Create winning discounts
Whether it’s high or low season, there’s an old marketing trick that always keeps the shoppers coming — discounts.
Everyone loves a discount. Start early to plan special promotions and seasonal bundles that help support your sales goals.
For instance, you can use seasonal promos to:
- Boost sales on slowing-moving products
- Increase sales velocity on top performers
- Create a memorable product offer that helps boost your brand
To win at product discounting, always double-check your margins and ad spend to make sure the sale you want to run is financially viable.
Be sure to also research which products and deals are trending with your target customer right now, then look for ways to outdo the current promos in the market.
Tip #6. Amp up your pre-season marketing 📢
You’re already investing tons of time and money to make your seasonal products unforgettable. The last thing you want to do is drop the ball on marketing.
Before peak season hits, experiment with different channels and styles to keep your brand fresh in shoppers’ eyes. Aim to get customers excited for what’s coming up next and inspire them to spread the word.
Some simple yet effective ways to attract attention to your seasonal lines are:
- Referral bonus schemes
- Influencer marketing campaigns
- Giveaways and competitions
- Q&A sessions with industry experts
- Pay-per-click (PPC) ads
- Content marketing
Psst! Need a hand with influencer marketing? Check out our guide on how to navigate the hype and partner with creators who will help you drive actual sales.
Tip #7. Secure working capital to cover funding gaps
Love it or hate it, seasonality can cause major gaps in your cash flow.
And while you can’t control the seasons themselves, you can influence the effect they have on your store’s revenue with a little help from external working capital.
At SellersFi, our team can help you go from application to up to $1 million in working capital in as little as 24 hours. Whether you need to secure buffer inventory, negotiate with suppliers, or ramp up your seasonal ad budget, we can help you secure the cash flow you need in order to keep seasonal sales on track.
Because selling seasonal inventory is no cakewalk. But with the right funding, a creative outlook, and some careful early preparation, you can definitely come out on top.
It’s time to stop struggling with seasonal inventory. Stay in stock and win back your sales with a little help from SellersFi.