Annual events such as Christmas are a lucrative proposition for businesses in the retail and services industries, but can place enormous pressure on supply chains, staff scheduling, and capacity management. Rather than letting these seasonal squeeze points get the better of you, however, there are lots of ways to sure-up your operations and ensure that no opportunities go amiss.
Here, we’re focusing on the practical steps you can take to ensure business readiness at key seasonal times. With advice on managing resources and preparing staff, it’s a useful guide for enterprises looking to maximise revenue during busy periods.
First Steps: Staff Scheduling and Business Readiness
Taking the Christmas period as a prime example; there are two key issues that can compound staffing problems throughout November and December.
Firstly, demand for products and services places extra strain on your supply and logistics infrastructure, threatening the efficacy of the order fulfilment cycle. This can disrupt customary staff scheduling, with some businesses required to pool resources from other departments to ensure the continuity of their inventory and supply functions during high-demand periods.
Secondly, staff holidays in November and December can be highly disruptive, diminishing resource at crucial times. For businesses in retail and services sectors, it may even be necessary to limit staff holidays during key seasonal periods, as a means of maintaining operational efficiency and avoiding staffing shortfalls.
So, increased demand and requests for holidays can create the perfect storm from a seasonal staffing perspective. But what can you do about it?
Here are a few tips on managing and preparing staff during busy periods:
Anticipate Staff Shortfalls
There are several things you can be sure of during seasonal periods like Christmas, and increased demand is one of them. So, by working off this assumption, it’s possible to anticipate staff shortfalls – supposing that you’ll be short of staff and, therefore, in need of a plan B.
Course-correcting on scheduling early means you can get ahead of staff shortages, either by recruiting temporary staff or introducing measures to control holidays through the busy period. For example, it may be necessary to introduce limits on the number of staff who can book holidays at any one time, or offer overtime to staff who are able to take on extra hours.
To optimise staff scheduling, it can be useful to analyse historic systems data. Here, you can identify peaks and troughs in demand at a granular level, ensuring that you only ever have the right number of people to service current demand levels.
Streamline Your Operations for Business Readiness
During busy periods, simple changes to how you manage day-to-day operations can make all the difference. For example, when was the last time you audited and prepped your warehouse, ensuring it’s as organised as possible to facilitate streamlined logistics and fulfilment?
Streamlining processes ahead of busy trading periods can reduce pressure and make staff scheduling simpler. Utilise business management software to ensure you’re operating at peak efficiency during both quiet and busy periods.
Reach Out to Contractors and Partners
If you’re concerned that seasonal demand could cause unmanageable pressure within your operation, and don’t necessarily have the resources to take on temporary staff, it’s worth reaching out to partners to see if there is any help or solutions they can offer.
Suppliers, partners, and software vendors may be able to provide additional services that alleviate pressure without the need to recruit new personnel. And if required, business management software that’s provided on a flexible subscription model can be scaled up and down at specific times of the year, so if additional licences for temporary staff are needed, they can be quickly and easily added
Communicate Plans to Staff
Whichever route you go down to ensure adequate staffing during busy seasonal periods, it’s important to communicate plans to colleagues and staff well in advance. An upfront and transparent approach is needed here – particularly if you plan to limit holiday days during what is a popular time for last-minute absence requests.
Preparations for high-demand periods should commence well ahead of time to give staff adequate notice; leverage HR resource to ensure personnel are informed of any incoming changes. It may also be worth sending out a company newsletter, thanking staff for their time and reemphasising the goals and objectives of the business as you enter this challenging period.
What’s more, you should encourage a two-way conversation with your staff about scheduling, hearing their take on what improvements could be made to streamline daily operations. Are there any system updates or upgrades which could make life easier for them? And could a different approach to permissions and system access help speed up processes?
However, you approach communicating plans to staff, make sure to do it during quieter periods, so you’ve time to make any necessary changes and updates.
Be Wary of Having Too Many Staff During Busy Periods
It’s customary to take an ‘all hands on deck’ approach during busy seasonal periods, but the danger is you could end up over-resourcing and wasting money. You need to make sure staffing levels are appropriate for customer numbers and the level of demand; a flexible, data-backed approach to staff scheduling can help ensure this.
Analyse how many customers your brick-and-mortar store receives at different times, and adjust staffing levels accordingly. Likewise, if your eCommerce store has peaks and troughs in demand, assess staff scheduling to make sure you’re not under or overdoing it.
Stock Control and Resource Management
While adequate staffing is a key consideration during busy seasonal periods, arguably the most important element to get right is stock control and stock visibility. Everything, from order fulfilment to supply continuity, relies on timely and effective inventory management, so it’s something to sure up ahead of a busy seasonal period.
Below, we offer some essential tips on how to maximise stock control at key seasonal times.
Let Previous Sales History Inform Your Inventory Management Strategy
Understanding what (and not) to stock up on in the run-up to a key seasonal trading period is half the battle of high-demand inventory management. You need to maximise warehouse capacity while ensuring you have enough of the right stock; be sure to perform a warehouse audit ahead of busy periods to make room for seasonal inventory.
Historic sales data is the best tool for understanding which products to stock up on for recurring seasonal sales events. Which products proved popular last year? And in what volumes did they sell?
Make sure your business software evens out any peaks in the period driven by anomalies; for example, a one-off significant order that you know won’t be repeated. It’s about using system smarts to ensure you aren’t over or understocked and have the most in-demand products in stock, so you can maximise profitability and revenue.
Tip – if you’re not sure you can rely on historic data, it could be time to review your business management software. Accurate and consistent data is key to effective stock control, so you need to be sure you can rely on your data.
Develop a Seasonal Sales Forecast
As part of preparations for an upcoming seasonal sales period, developing a sales forecast can be an effective way to guarantee timely fulfilment while ensuring that your goals and objectives are met. It also highlights to stakeholders, staff, and partners just how valuable high-demand seasonal periods are to the business, for maximum buy-in and support.
A seasonal sales forecast is typically based on historic sales data as well as any assumptions you can make about the upcoming period based on qualitative, external factors. Again, your business software can be used here to provide you with predictive stock forecasts that take into account your individual assumptions, lead times, historical data etc.
Leverage Automation Tools to Free Up Resources
Automation is essential for juggling resources during busy seasonal periods, so make sure you’re taking advantage of the tools and platforms at your disposal. Leveraging software to automate different functions within your inventory system can be a powerful way to free up resources and ensure maximum efficiency – ideal if staffing issues and lack of resources have previously created problems and bottlenecks.
To get the most from automation tools and your ERP system, make sure that your eCommerce site is linked to your business management software. This way, all teams can benefit from centralised data management and real-time alerts, for enhanced management and control.
Invest in an Advanced Stock Management System to Ensure Maximum Revenue
How do you currently manage your stock? If it’s been some time since you last updated your inventory management system, an upgrade could make all the difference in how able you are to manage peak seasonal sales periods.
Modern ERP solutions contain advanced stock management functionality and offer a range of tools and solutions to simplify day-to-day stock control. Whether you’re a wholesaler, merchant or a retail business, capabilities such as real-time stock data, advance stock replenishment functionality, automated workflows, mobile warehousing, configurable interfaces, and integrated warehouse management capabilities can all work to simplify the stock management process – making it one less thing to worry about as you approach key seasonal periods.
We hope our guide to preparing staff and managing resources helps you better negotiate strategic sales periods such as Christmas. If you’ve enjoyed this article, you’ll find other useful guides on the Intact Resources page. For more information and to hear how we can help your business through high-demand periods, visit the homepage or contact our experts today.