Sailing through seasonal surges

Three days into 2022 and the January sales are in full swing. It’s the final push for retailers during the busiest season of the retail calendar. As Christmas is wrapped up and stored away for another year, the countdown is on to shift as much old stock as possible, ready for an influx of new products to take over the shelves.

Like Christmas is a time for reflection, so too is the first quarter in retail. Though we often feel like we need another holiday after the operational rush of events like Black Friday and Boxing Day, retailers can’t afford to put their feet up, quite yet.

A new year brings new prospects and new considerations, especially to an ever-changing shopping landscape. What must retailers be focussing on now to ensure they can sail through the seasonal surges of 2022?

The oh-so time sensitive phenomenon

It’s been five weeks since the latest Black Friday event, which means you could be still riding the high or still recovering. Since tornado-ing its way into the UK retail sector back in the early 2010s, it’s become the shopping extravaganza on steroids that’s only got bigger and better each year.

The combination of only a single 24-hour period with staggering discounts and mind-boggling ‘one-time only’ offers is the perfect recipe for stirring up a consumer frenzy. News channels have become accustomed to sending journalists to retail sites as early as the Monday before to report on shoppers setting up camp in time for Black Friday. And it’s not just consumers that are keen to take part in the action, either.

Be it earlier, bigger, and even in the form of pre-Black Friday deals, retailers go all-in on the hype-drive. So much so that in recent years, the course of Black Friday has changed. At any cost, the once-one-day phenomenon is now week-long, if not a month. The first of the promo emails screech their way into inboxes as soon as the tealights in pumpkins are blown out. It’s no wonder sales figures are often up to six times more than any other period in the year!

Black Friday VS Boxing Day

The event from across the Atlantic has accelerated in popularity by so much that it’s beginning to overshadow our once-most prolific shopping day of the year: Boxing Day. The public going out in their thousands to claim the abundance of seasonal stock retailers try to rid of has long been a celebrated part of UK Christmas culture, and this year was no different.

Whilst discounts have remained significantly heavy (often up to 80%) due to product seasonality, Black Friday trends include more site- or store-wide discounts, on average between 10 and 30%. Extreme sales help to make the option of purchasing Christmas presents at a reduced price rather a no-brainer. Even if more than 90% of last year’s Black Friday deals were the same price or cheaper in the six months leading up to the event…

The cost of missing out

Leading up to 26th November 2021, shopping centres and retail parks saw footfall upped by 6.5% and 4.9% respectively. It’s the retail event of yesterday that sets the precedent for today’s activities; it’s high stakes for sales, but even higher for chaos.

Whether retailers have successfully managed to navigate their share of ongoing supply chain bumps remains to be seen. Regardless, in 2022, retailers must put a real focus on forecasting to ensure a resilient future. In light of the media drumming home certain sectors’ struggles with supply, like the electronics industry, public worry about missing out peaked. Stock-levels have been interrupted – in short – due to the global pandemic; how many of last year’s deals may genuinely have only come around once?

Steady solutions for stalled supply chains

Thankfully, Christmas 2021 saw retailers collectively choose to steadily release offerings in efforts to lessen any supply chain issues. ‘The more, the merrier’ most certainly rang true; from access to real-time inventory levels to working with a higher number of transport and logistics providers, proactive decisions helped the hysteria of the old man in his sleigh fly without a hitch.

It goes without saying that full vision over stock levels is a crucial factor of successful retail, be it on the high street or through ecommerce. Looking to continue to spread out offers, deals, and discounts is key for retailers to lessen the rush on themselves, too. With seasonal shopping events like Valentine’s Day and the summer sales on the not-so-distant horizon, taking advantage of a multi-channel approach will help ensure products are in front of the right customers in good time.

Riding seasonal surges

The ecommerce world is abreast with inventive methods to avoid seasonal surge supply stutters. For instance, stock that proves harder to shift can be promoted in a few clicks. Or when certain stock runs out, customer recommendations can be made that will continue to satisfy, offering a discount on a similar item, for instance.

In terms of the bigger picture of actually getting products from the warehouse to the customer, effective supply chains must be established. Whether regional or international, having suppliers that are based in different areas helps to ensure supply can meet demand, regardless of any environmental or circumstantial pressures. The same goes for upping employees during peak weeks; seasonal and ad-hoc working arrangements help to continue provide the next-day delivery we’ve all become so accustomed to.

As seasonal shopping migrates from a to-do list chore into a full-blown consumer experience, the best thing retailers can do is be ready. For the queues and for the surge in online demand, and not forgetting the celebrations of the rewards. 

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