Gear Up for Retail Peak Season: Key Steps for Success
By Chris Hagle
September 13th | 4 min read
If You’re Not Already Gearing Up for Retail Peak Season, You’re Behind Schedule
The retail peak season is quickly approaching. If you haven’t started your preparations yet, you might already be too late. The holiday season brings both opportunities and challenges, and without proper planning, your operations could face significant obstacles.
The importance of planning for retail peak season
Planning is crucial for retailers during the peak season. This period, marked by increased customer traffic and sales opportunities, presents both significant potential rewards and inherent risks.
Proper planning helps you to capitalize on the increased interest from shoppers, maximizing revenue during this crucial period. On the flip side, lack of preparation may lead to stockouts of high-demand items, missed sales, and dissatisfied customers. Moreover, your operations can become overwhelmed, resulting in inefficiencies, longer wait times, and added pressure on your staff.
In short, diligent planning sets the stage for a successful peak season. It enables retailers to deliver an efficient and positive shopping experience, building customer loyalty and safeguarding their reputation during the most intense and profitable times of the year.
How to plan for the retail peak season
Here’s a detailed timeline to guide your preparations for the retail peak season:
Initial Planning | 6-9 Months Before (March-June)
- Analyze the previous peak season. Identify lessons learned, top-performing products/categories, and operational bottlenecks to address.
- Place orders for long lead time items, particularly imported goods, to ensure sufficient inventory.
- Determine whether your eCommerce platform, Point of Sale (POS) system, or other technology need upgrades. Implement them now to ensure seamless operations during the peak season.
Labour Planning | 4-6 Months Before (July-September)
- Start assessing labor requirements to handle peak volumes.
- Engage with staffing agencies to communicate your needs.
- Review and refine training and onboarding processes for a smooth transition period.
Initial Execution | 2-4 Months Before (September-November)
- Focus on inventory arrival at this stage. Ensure most of your inventory arrives at warehouses or distribution centers. This allows for proper organization, stock rotation, and distribution to various fulfillment locations.
- Onboard and train new staff members on adapting to various processes and handling returns.
- Test systems thoroughly for peak load functionality.
Final Preparation | 1 Month Before (October)
- Conduct dry runs to validate and test processes and systems.
- Implement a vacation blackout to ensure all hands-on deck.
- Coordinate with carriers to ensure preparedness and understand any process changes are in place, like different pick-up/drop-off times.
- Confirm that Available to Promise (ATP) is synced between your eCommerce platform and Warehouse Management System (WMS).
During Peak Season | (November-December)
- Monitor and adapt – continuously check stock levels, sales, and customer feedback. Adjust stock orders or fulfillment processes if necessary.
- Customer Service – Be ready to handle increased customer inquiries, returns, and exchanges.
Post Peak Season
- Allocate dock space for returns and exchanges – the period right after peak season can be busy with returns and exchanges, ensure you have dock space set aside.
- Conduct a debrief – as things settle down, review and analyze how the peak season went, gathering insights for the next year.
Navigating the complexities of retail peak season planning can be daunting. Retailers encounter numerous challenges both internally and externally, making it a high-stakes endeavor. To alleviate the burden of intricate fulfillment and delivery operations, partner with a reliable supply chain expert. This allows you to focus on creating unforgettable and profitable customer experiences while placing your confidence in their expertise.
Contact Us for a Free Planning Assessment
To assist with your preparations, LIDD offers a free planning assessment. This evaluation will help you understand where you stand on the planning index and how to effectively plan your operations.
Where do you sit on the LIDD planning index? Get-in touch with us today to find out.