The holiday season is the busiest time of year for retailers — especially online sellers, and even more so if you sell on Amazon. In fact, Amazon sees the majority of online shoppers during the holiday season, which means a lot of exposure for your storefront, increased sales, and (unfortunately) a higher chance of going out of stock.
The last thing you want during the busiest shopping season of the year is to run out of inventory. Doing so means you lose sales, a large percentage of your revenue, and Amazon ranking.
So how can you avoid a holiday stockout? Here are four simple steps to help you stay in stock — and finish the year on a high note.
1. Forecast Your Inventory Needs
What products should you sell this holiday season? And how much should you have in stock? Figuring out these details requires some data analysis.
To do this, look at your sales history and any inventory patterns (i.e. previous stockouts) that will give you a benchmark on quantity. Make sure you’re looking at this information over last year’s holiday season as well as the previous few months. By doing so, you’ll have an understanding of how much inventory you’ll sell as well as what products tend to be more popular than others. It’s safe to say that if they’re popular throughout the year, they’ll be popular in November and December, too.
Once you’ve figured out your benchmark, you’ll at least know the bare-minimum amount to order. To help you determine how much more to order to ensure you have enough to meet the holiday demand, factor in your YOY sales growth percentage and/or look at the sales history of your products on Amazon. Learn from your experience during Prime Day 2017 – were you prepared for the massive spike in volume that Amazon experienced?
And, if you want to sell a new product but don’t know where to start, look for high volume/high margin goods. You can find such products by using a service like Jungle Scout.
2. Place Orders With Your Suppliers by Mid-October
Once you’ve determined your inventory needs, it’s time to purchase — just make sure you place your orders sooner rather than later, with the goal of ordering no later than mid-October. This will give you over a month to actually get the items in hand (or to FBA) in time for Black Friday/Cyber Monday at the end of November.
Another benefit of ordering early is that you’ll likely get better deals from your suppliers. Start a conversation with them now to give them a heads up on your upcoming holiday orders and see what deals they can offer for being ahead of the rush.
Pro Tip: If you’re worried about cash flow issues preventing you from ordering enough inventory to meet holiday demand, consider a service like Payability, which pays out your Amazon income the next business day after making a sale.
3. Implement An Inventory Management System
You should already have an inventory management system in place, but if not, now is the time to implement one. Whether you consult Amazon Selling Coach in Seller Central or use inventory management software like Teikametrics, it’s so important to monitor your inventory levels and stay ahead of stockouts.
Most inventory management systems track how much product you have in stock, how many days until you run out, and when you should place another order. You may even be able to set alerts letting you know when you’ve hit a certain number — that way, you know to place a new order before that number actually hits 0.
Once your inventory management system is in place, make sure you check it daily (even if you’ve set replenishment alerts). Set a calendar reminder to look at your levels at the same time every day so you don’t have any surprises.
4. Create Your Holiday Calendar
The holiday season tends to spike in November and December, but there are some key dates during, before, and after these months that you should consider as you gear up for Q4:
Key Dates to Note:
- Thanksgiving: November 23, 2017
- Black Friday: November 24, 2017
- Cyber Monday: November 27, 2017
- Hanukkah: December 12 – 20 , 2017
- Christmas: December 25, 2017
- Boxing Day: December 26, 2017
- Kwanzaa: December 26, 2017 – January 1, 2018
- New Year’s Eve: December 31, 2017
- Returns, Credits and Gift Cards! The entire month of January
- Chinese New Year: February 15 – 21, 2018
- Amazon’s Long-Term Storage Fee Day: February 15, 2018
Make sure your overseas orders arrive before Black Friday and allow for any customs-related issues. FBA Forward gives the absolute latest that your shipments should leave their point of origin in order to be available for the late November rush:
- Sea Freight: September 29, 2017
- Air Freight: October 27, 2017
All in all, preventing a holiday stockout really comes down to planning ahead. And by planning ahead, we mean planning now. Think about the products that will win you the most business, start talking to your suppliers so you can get the best deals, and get your items in-hand (or in FBA) and ready-to-sell well before the Black Friday/Cyber Monday rush kicks holiday shopping into high gear.
Need more Q4 Amazon seller tips? Curious about other ways to plan ahead for the holiday season? Check out our Q4 Holiday Planning Guide today.