Critical Inventory To-Dos and Checklists for the Holiday Season

By now, you likely have most things buttoned up for the holidays. That means you have a fast, secure POS system, a holiday marketing plan, and seasonal employees on tap for your busy season.

But as you consider new ways to sell safely, there’s an aspect of your business you should monitor closely — your holiday inventory. To make sure you’re making the most of the holidays this year, here’s a mission-critical holiday inventory to-do list.

1. Make sure you’ve made strategic inventory purchases.

You’re the expert in your industry, so it’s likely you already have a hunch about what’s going to sell well this holiday season. If you don’t, social media is the first place to look to get a picture of trending items.

Retail stores, in particular, should check Pinterest and Instagram to see what’s on people’s wish lists. Keep an eye on the type of aesthetic that’s popular this year, which can help inform the look and feel of your online store and in-store merchandising displays.

But that’s not enough. You should look at some hard numbers — your historical sales data — to make the most informed inventory purchasing decisions. Your Square Dashboard makes this simple. There, you can quickly get a picture of which items or categories of items were your most popular last year. You may have sold out of initial mugs, for example, but also items in the accessories category, like scarves or mittens. So, if you’re low on that sort of inventory this year, stock up now. “Sold out” equals a lost sale.

2. Sync your online and brick-and-mortar inventory.

To keep up with inventory levels in real-time, it’s important to connect your in-store and online inventory. This helps keep customers happy, because if someone orders a shirt online and someone just bought the last one in-store, it can be frustrating — especially at the holidays.

Some customers may want to browse online and then head into your storefront to actually make the purchase — or vice versa.

If you don’t update your online inventory in real-time as items sell out, you may run into problems. At best, that sort of scenario makes for frustrated shoppers. At worst, it makes for customers who switch their loyalty to another store that’s more reliable.

As the retail industry becomes increasingly omnichannel, it’s crucial to integrate software that can sync your brick-and-mortar and online stores’ inventory in real-time.

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3. Turn your store into a mini distribution centre.

Once you connect your online and in-store inventory, you may need more space to fulfil holiday orders. One option is to temporarily turn part of your store into a retail distribution centre.

A retail distribution centre is simply a location where you process orders. With more space to help you fulfil orders, you’ll be able to ship and deliver items to customers quickly, especially if they’re local. You can also use it to allow customers to “buy online, pick up in-store,” (BOPIS) and participate in other safe shopping methods.

Re-purposing part of your store into a warehouse can also help you process holiday returns faster, if you allow customers to drop off returns at your store instead of mailing them back. If you have multiple locations, customers can pick up their orders at the most convenient spot.

Before reconfiguring your store for retail fulfilment, make sure:

  • You know exactly where in your store you’ll fulfil orders (a counter, backroom, or on the floor itself).
  • Your online and in-store inventory is synced, and it’s easy for your employees and customers to see what’s in stock.
  • You’re all staffed up. You can ask existing store associates to help fulfil orders or you can hire new staff. With either route, make sure you properly train the team on retail fulfilment.

4. Monitor your real-time sales.

Every day throughout the holiday season (and year-round, for that matter), you should have a sense of what’s selling well. That means you should check your real-time Square sales data as well as your daily sales reports (you can do both on the go with the Square Dashboard app). This helps you make strategic marketing decisions.

Say, for example, your custom T-shirts are flying off the shelves. That’s a good indication you should promote that item on social media, and perhaps deploy a “going fast” email marketing campaign. You should also display that item front and centre in your store window — and feature it in your online store — to catch customers’ attention.