Seasonality throws all kinds of unpredictable scenarios at the retail industry. From summer showers to a sunny September, retailers can see sharp rises and unforeseeable plummets in demand for certain products throughout the year. A surprise news story, inclement weather or change in the economy can dramatically affect customer buying habits and subsequent sales. To systematically address these unpredictable situations is near impossible, but here Debra Jamieson shares a few tips to help businesses stay ahead of the game …

Learn from the past

Look over your sales figures from last year – if there’s a product that sells more in December than in May, it’s obviously a good idea to roughly follow the pattern for this year and alter your inventory accordingly. During the busy times, crowded shelves can often neighbour ransacked sections – take note of these patterns and think about the PoS you use to keep the high demand items tidy.

Plan for the future … then plan some more

The key to getting through the seasons without overstocking or leaving yourself short is to plan, plan and plan again. Know where you’re focusing your sales each week a month or two in advance – this will reduce the risk of stock mismanagement.

Honestly, no matter how much you plan, some products will sell faster than others, that’s unavoidable. To deal with this common situation, be ready with planned discounts and deals.

Keep on top of your inventory, know how many you expect to sell and discount accordingly – a 25% discount on over-stocked products will usually boost sales and kick-start the clear-out, but increase the discount incrementally if the stock refuses to shift. When it comes to reducing prices, awareness and planning are important to success, but promotion of the discount is key.

To really make the most of your discounted stock, A-boards placed outside the shop, or wall-mounted posters, can help to catch consumer attention and boost numbers coming through the door.

Plan your display

How your shop is presented is just as important as what you’re selling. A sunny day in July can be easily interrupted by a surprise shower – in this instance, having your supply of umbrellas at the back of the storeroom probably doesn’t make great business sense. Have your displays ready to go and react quickly to make the most of changes in the weather, viral sensations or news stories that are sweeping the nation.

Have an array of PoS for all seasons so, whatever the weather, you have a suitable display option to showcase your products and services. Snap frames, for example, allow you to easily interchange the poster within and tailor promotions to suit.

Be tech savvy

Interactive PoS devices can really help you to react to changes in your environment and connect to a new, tech-savvy customer base. Recent innovations in technology mean that interactive displays are all the rage. Take advantage of these versatile merchandising tools and make your retail space stand out from the crowd.

It’s a fantastic time to start investing in technology, smart apps and hi-tech merchandising tools to give your business that modern cutting edge. Making your customers aware of your latest deals, your newest products and anything you think might drum up business and get them through the doors is of utmost importance.

Be reactive

Perhaps the most important rule of all – you can have all the latest technology, an eye-catching array of displays and the best contingency plan in the world, but if you fail to react to seasonality it will all be pretty useless when it comes to keeping your profits consistent and unaffected. Stock needs to be regularly refreshed to encourage a healthy cash flow and ensure the continuation of sustainable storage.

And finally…

To sit still is to stagnate when it comes to retail. With a competitive marketplace and increasingly demanding customers, it’s crucially important to stay ahead of the game. To manage the unpredictability of seasonality, utilise the PoS that will work the hardest for you, make your presentation the best it can be, discount early and incrementally, know your customers, know their needs – and how they can change in the blink of an eye – and meticulously plan around them.

Author Debra Jamieson is the sales and marketing director of UK Point of Sale (UK POS), a manufacturer of point-of-sale solutions and a preferred partner to some of the biggest names in retail. This article was published in the January issue of Furniture News magazine.