By Jim Lewis, CEO

Empty Shelves

Everyone is so concerned about the emptiness of their shelves right now that they may be forgetting that lead times are getting longer and longer. If they want any chance of getting product for Spring, they Better Buy It Now (B.B.I.N). I’m talking primarily about goods coming out of Asia, but there are other factors such as transportation bottlenecks in the US that are issues as well. It’s time to create contingency plans- multiple ones- to minimize the disappointment of consumers.

Business Continuity & Contingency

Business continuity plans were tested last year when the pandemic started. Very quickly companies could see how viable or realistic they were.  They adapted as necessary. It took a global pandemic to test our ability to operate in an extreme, unpredictable environment. We now know that shopping can survive in that environment, but production can be greatly affected.

As buyers shore up their Spring lines there are several questions they may want to consider including:

  • Can manufacturing of a product be spread across multiple factories/suppliers?
  • Are there products that can bought off season and stored for later?
  • Which SKU’s should be prioritized?
  • How will marketing and promotional plans need to be adapted?
  • What other items are available that can be merchandised if a prioritized item isn’t available?
  • Are higher costs from domestic factories now lower because freight and carrying costs are higher for imported product?

Laying out the “preferred” assortment and “backup” assortment could at least take some of the risk out of the unknown. That isn’t an easy task. It’s hard enough building one assortment plan. And to put it into motion more capital may be required. But in the current environment shoppers are just going to whoever has product. If you’ve proven to be in stock better than others, you’re a top choice.

Pandemics aren’t the only risk factor right now. Hurricane Ida flooded a client’s East Coast warehouse which will spell bad news for several of their retailer account’s fall plans. Thankfully they have another warehouse on the West Coast, so all was not lost. Having that contingency paid off, unfortunately.

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