Preparations for meeting demand over the Christmas and New Year period are well underway within the retail sector, but some retailers will fare better than others.
And year-on-year, the evidence suggests the support (or lack of!) retailers receive from their suppliers can make or break sales within a small, highly pressurised window of opportunity. And for those retailers that have painstakingly built up strong supplier relationships, Christmas is when this can pay off in terms of meeting fast-moving stock requirements.
Last Christmas Visa estimated that 15 million shoppers hit the high street on the Monday before Christmas and spent £2.6 million per minute. And this will have been just one of many massive surges in concentrated spending that took place in the run up to the big day. And guess what? It’ll be the same this year! The rate of demand rapidly builds from the beginning of November, so suppliers should accelerate efforts in parallel with this to properly service the retail sector.
Effective stock management and market understanding are at the heart of this. Suppliers who fail to demonstrate both these elements within their relationship with retailers are at risk of losing out to competitors, and this time of year is certainly the acid test. Supply and demand is a simple formula, but putting it into practice won’t work unless there’s an instinctive understanding of the retail customer’s needs both now and in the future.
An account management team with direct experience of the retail sector being serviced is the premise to any successful relationship. Without this understanding suppliers are less able to estimate the levels and types of stock required at a moment’s notice at times of increased demand. Adaptability is key, so being culturally aligned with the ebb and flow of a specific retail sector is the only way suppliers can plan for the unexpected.
This adaptability is borne out of suppliers themselves having as robust a supply chain as possible. Due diligence measures surrounding potential breakdowns must be part and parcel of their network at any time of year. But failing to have this in place over the Christmas period is one of the biggest risks to relationships continuing in the New Year.
Planning should be the basis of a successful relationship at any time of year. For example, concentrated support during this period doesn’t just apply to the run-up to Christmas. Suppliers have to be on hand to process returns efficiently after 25 December and of course, the January sales period requires suppliers to help meet similar levels of concentrated demand.
So, testing times ahead. But strong relationships and proactive account management by suppliers servicing the retail sector will help them and their retail customers differentiate themselves and hopefully set a precedent for the year ahead.
☛ Nigel Crunden is business specialist at Office Depot