Inventory: Its the Product, Stupid

By Jim Lewis, CEO Enhanced Retail Solutions LLC

In this retail environment, many consumers have become retailer-agnostic. They don’t really care what the outlet is- they just want whatever it is they want. They know the supply chain is constrained and prices are starting to creep up. So the battle is to find the place that was lucky enough to have bought enough or paid off someone at the port. Now that we are in the holiday selling season (I know, it doesn’t feel that way to me either) consumers will just continually refresh their browsers until they find availability. Retailers need to increase their exposure, which is why the partnership between Bed Bath & Beyond and Kroger makes so much sense to me. However, the real winner this holiday will be Google.

Diverting Goods

Retailers must find a way to get products to their DC’s and stores as quickly as possible once they come off a container. Or ship directly from the port to customers. I know it’s virtually impossible, but shaving off a few days could be the difference between making a sale or not. Preorder now and deliver it the minute it comes out of that container. Uber it to FedEx. I can already see new 7 character named services taking shape: FedExEr and LyftUps. All kidding aside, there has to be 3rd party resources that can handle this. It doesn’t solve the problem of empty shelves in physical stores but at this point you just want to get revenue.

A Marketing Conundrum

I’m surprised that retailers haven’t adjusted their marketing to prepare the consumer that their gifts are going to be purchased after the holidays. Especially Hanukkah which is very early this year starting right after Thanksgiving. Back in 1977 Kenner sold certificates that could be redeemed for Star Wars toys once they were produced – after Christmas. Christmas morning kids opened a box with a fancy piece of paper in it, but the product was so exciting they didn’t care. In our world of 2-day or same day shipping it sounds crazy, but here we are. Changing the consumer’s perception that holiday gift giving ends on December 25th creates an interesting marketing conundrum.  If you tell consumers that you’re the place to go after Christmas they won’t show up prior to that. If you invite them into the store and the shelves are empty, you’ve disappointed them.

Change Consumer’s Expectations

My vote is to align retailers to a new holiday calendar. Changing their marketing cadence and consumer’s expectations that the gift giving season ends sometime in January. After all, we deserve a longer celebration given the pandemic don’t we?

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