With the holidays less than two months away, retailers have already swapped out spooky masks, jack-o-lanterns, and candy corn for holly, garland, and ornaments for the upcoming holiday shopping season. This is the time you’ve trained for all year — Black Friday and the crazy busy shopping days leading up to the holiday itself.
Are your warehouse operations ready?
The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates $631 billion in-store sales and an additional $105 billion in online sales this November and December. So expect your warehouse employees to be as “lively and quick” as that jolly old elf in the red suit.
Worldwide, families will soon be pounding the sales floors and look for the best online deals, vying for all the unique or must-have holiday gifts. And if you are one of the 43 percent of small businesses hoping to increase revenue this year, then you need to be ready for the most important shopping season of the entire year.
This helpful checklist along with an inventory management system will have your warehouse and employees equipped and organized for the onslaught of orders (and you may want to check it twice).
- Review sales data: Perhaps you know, without a doubt, that the personalized stockings or the specialty candies are a hit every year. Be sure your most popular holiday stock is situated at the front of the picking area. It’s well worth the time to review sales data from previous years in order to determine what stock needs to get moved around for easy access and shipping. These metrics are relatively simple to pull up with a barcode inventory management system in place.
- Hire extra staff: It’s likely that you could be short-staffed due to holiday travel and vacations. Don’t get caught with a lack of manpower on the busiest shopping day of the year. This will cause dreaded shipping bottlenecks. So make sure your available staff can fulfill the increased demand. As a small business owner, you might be working right alongside your employees on the front lines, without the time to hire holiday help. Consider contacting staffing agencies in advance to help find temporary workers. And if you outsource any services you’ve outgrown your current system, like delivery, reach out to those companies to be sure they are well-staffed and prepared, too.
- Make sure your warehouse technology works: Trust me, you don’t want barcode scanners or inventory management software to fail on the busiest shopping day of the year. Take time now to test your software and hardware. Ask your managers and employees to see if they have experienced any problems and identify what needs fixed or tweaked.
Related Article: MANAGING INVENTORY DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON
You may even determine that have outgrown your current system or need to move from manual processes to an automated inventory management system.
- Organize your warehouse: Once you’ve done the first three things on this list, it’s time to re-organize. A neat warehouse is an efficient warehouse, especially during busy seasons. If a product is hidden or misplaced, it could mean the difference between making a sale or not. Another good idea is to create barcode labels once items are moved and grouped with other like items.
- Have a plan B: Even the best laid plans can go awry. So always have a back-up strategy and communicate it clearly with your staff. It will put everyone at ease as well as ensure a smooth transition from Black Friday to the bustling holiday rush.
- Make sure all records are accurate: It’s recommended you have detailed information about each item in stock, including how many of each product is on hand. Further, daily reports like discrepancy reports, mark outs, and unallocated items should be up to date. You can pull up this data from your inventory management system.
- Make a plan to prevent bottlenecks: Do the following to prevent back-ups in your warehouse flow:
- Make sure your receiving personnel put away stock and scan the items to the correct locations.
- Ensure all orders are shipped or received before your store or warehouse closes for the day. The right kind of barcode hardware will make these processes more efficient.
- Work with your marketing department or managers to design pick areas in the back room or warehouse for those hot items that will be in high demand during certain promotions or sales events.
- Communicate with your carriers: Communicate the expected rise in volume during this season and increase the frequency of pick-ups.
- Review your return policies: As sure as there will be a lot more sales, there will be a lot more items returned. How did your returns process hold up last year? What were the gaps that held up your warehouse operations? If you need to make tweaks, communicate them to your customer service and marketing departments so everyone is on the same page.
Don’t let your business come up short during the most important revenue-generating season of the year. Go through this checklist in advance so your company won’t end up on customers’ naughty list this year.
What areas of your business need improvement before the holiday shopping season?