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Winning your peak season

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Most product companies have their “season”; that one time in the year that you really have to maximise your sales to hit your targets. For many this is Christmas, but whatever it is for you, it is critical to maximise the potential from it to deliver that successful year.

Kicking it off

Market appraisal & product development are likely to be your first stops. A lucky few may have market favourites that they can roll out year after year, but for those who don’t have those staples in their range, focused development is key.

What’s happening in the market that is likely to impact consumer demands? What trends are already setting the direction for coming seasons? All of this sets the scene for what you should expect retailers to be focused on.

And focused the main retailers will be. Many of the largest retailers have a strategy in place long before they begin ranging for a particular season, which will drive the types and styles of products, key price points and any other areas of focus for them. Many of them, especially the large supermarkets, will run a supplier event prior to the season, laying out what they are looking for. Get yourself invited; let them tell you what they want, rather than having to guess at it.

And even with smaller retailers, what is likely to work for them is still likely to be driven by the same market learnings, so make the most of it. Use your knowledge to help guide their choices, giving you a better chance of having your products selected.

Timings   

A lot of this is likely to be happening long before the time of the actual event or holiday; with exactly how long depending on the categories and retailers. Most of my experience was with gift confectionery; and while you could still be making Christmas sales to smaller independent retailers in November the majority of orders were shipping by mid-October, on orders placed from reviews held in January to April. A couple of the very big High Street chains had everything finalised and signed off by December for the following Christmas, so you may need to decide what your priorities are and work your timings around that.

Of course, knowing who is looking at their ranges at what time is a challenge in itself. This is one of the areas Product Guru can assist – as not only are the products always live and ready for the buyers, but suppliers with premium subscriptions get access to buyers’ review dates, allowing them to focus their efforts where there is best pay back.


Understand the retailers process

For seasonal sales, most larger retailers have a set process to review seasonal ranges. Whether it is independent stores, department stores or supermarkets, short term seasonal offers can be a great way to get a foothold in a store; they are shorter and carry less financial risk to the retailer than a long-term year-round listing. So, understanding your target retailers’ seasonal plan can be beneficial.

It is also worth considering the commercials. Check that you understand any charges, fee’s or supports that retailers might require. For seasonal sales support of clearance discounts is a common one in bigger retailers but signing up to it can be risky for the supplier.

On the flip side, accepting some risk and possibly even offering competitive margins on initial seasonal lines can open the door to that retailer as mentioned above, and might be an investment for the future.

Getting it out the door

The one final area to keep you awake at night might be (maybe should be!) fulfilling the orders. Seasonal peaks by their nature drive production peaks, which can be tricky.

Ensure that you have a solid, realistic plan to manage any large seasonal peaks in demand. Also make sure you have the working capital in place to fund it; you will know your finances inside out, it is always critical to ensure you can cover the working capital until the retailer pays, or have a finance tool in place to cover the gap if you need it. But factor in the cost; these can be expensive.

Summary

Your ‘big season’ will be the best and possibly the worst time of year. It has the potential to drive the growth of your business, and ensure that time spent on NPD, sales and marketing pay off; but it also has the potential to stretch you more than any other time of the year.

Product Guru can assist in getting your key products in front of a wide range of influential buyers, while providing some of the additional information that can make the process of targeting retailers easier.

Whatever your major sales period is and however you approach it, good luck!