Analysts at the National Retail Federation are predicting a steady growth in retail sales heading into the end of 2015 in line with 2014 numbers. Last years’ holiday sales came in at $616.1 billion – providing about 20% of retailers’ total earnings for the year!
To capitalize on that opportunity, retail brands and their distributors must be ready to contend with extremely high consumer expectations. Online or in-store, pick up or delivery, customers want the right product, at the right price, at the right time. They have little patience for incomplete orders, out of stock inventory, or missed delivery dates. So, how does a distributor prepare for the holiday frenzy in an era of extreme expectations?
Here are four tips to get your warehouse in order and capitalize on the positive retail spending outlook:
- Ensure product availability
Out-of-stocks will drive customers to a competitor in a blink of an eye. Ensuring the right products are available and can be delivered in time to the store or the customer for the holiday is critical. To make that a reality, understanding product visibility in the warehouse is job number one. By leveraging warehouse management systems to gain real-time inventory visibility, distributors can better fulfill customer demands and nearly eliminate the issue of lost products by 99.8%.
- Prepare for the unexpected
In many parts of the country, the holiday season is also the season for snow and ice. Inclement weather can wreak havoc on an already chaotic time of year so distributors must be prepared for how to get goods delivered as scheduled regardless of the circumstances. Establishing secondary driving routes that can be used in case of problematic weather and traffic conditions are one way to circumnavigate Mother Nature’s lack of predictability.
- Know your labor limitations
If analyst expectations hold true the holiday season will bring an uptick in orders. Warehouse managers know better than anyone what their warehouse staff is capable of and simply allotting more hours to any given work schedule will not do the trick. Prepare your existing staff for what the season will bring and hire additional skilled staff to support them. This is not to say skilled workers won’t need training, but after an effective orientation they should quickly be able to help your current staff keep warehouse operations running smoothly. With the right processes and WMS technology, onboarding is faster and labor productivity increases by 44.6%.
- Make technology work for you
Lean on your warehouse management system. Most technology applications today are scalable and cloud based which means they can quickly adjust to support the spike in orders while simultaneously improving inventory accuracy and product visibility. WMS automation capabilities that reduce manual processes can also deliver operational efficiencies, such as an increased productivity gains by 22.3% for inbound activities and 35.6% for replenishment, and bolster overall productivity as managers and warehouse staff alike are freed up to do more.
With customer satisfaction and profits on the line, retailers and distributors need to do everything they can to make the 2015 holiday shopping season a success. By effectively orchestrating the people, processes and technologies in the warehouse to meet and exceed consumer demands these organizations will be well positioned to take advantage of the forecasted increase in holiday shopping dollars.
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