Having an “off-season” is mostly associated with industries like tourism or recreation facilities, but ecommerce must face those difficulties as well with seasonal products. Even first-time sellers can recognize an item’s high times and low times, but simply spotting them isn’t going to improve your seasonal inventory management alone.
In this brief guide, we cover what you need to know to sell more seasonal items, including what is seasonality, how to plan for it, and even some seasonal pricing examples.
What is Seasonality?
In business, seasonality refers to periods of change that happen regularly and predictably every year. For retail, these periods include the holiday and the back-to-school shopping seasons, to name a few.
This may not be exactly the seasonality definition you’re used to — with traditional seasons spring, summer, autumn, and fall — although in some industries the two align. Think about retailers who sell swimwear or ski equipment.
Retail seasonality is important because it usually calls for a break in routine, in particular:
- raising and lowering prices to match demand
- ordering enough stock for a rush
- changing up your marketing campaigns
The specifics change based on your brand and product range, and each retailer has their own individual seasonality changes. It might help to examine some hypothetical seasonal pricing examples.
Seasonal Pricing Examples
Costume stores really have two seasons: the Halloween period, their “on” season, and the rest of the year, a comparatively “off” season. If they plan on staying open all year round, they need to alter their sales strategy to survive from one Halloween to the next.
The hasty solution is to lower prices to add incentive. However, if people don’t need costumes in July, a lower price isn’t going to get them through the door. The company will need to think of alternative strategies. They could market to a new audience, for example, they might offer a promotion for school productions. Or they could change their business model for the off-season, renting out costumes instead of selling.
Most retailers however will experience more of a gray area. Take apparel sellers. Some clothing sells better during certain weather — think shorts or large puffy coats. These retailers have more choices, such as promoting these products during the off-season, lowering their prices, or leaving them in storage.
Further complicating matters is the cost of storage. Unsold seasonal items become dead stock, products that accrue money in storage fees without bringing in any actual profit. It’s best to unload your seasonal products using the tips below, rather than have them drain your budget until they become popular next year.
5 Expert Tips for Seasonal Inventory Management
1. Predict Demand with Last Year’s Data
Our seasonality definition specifically includes predictability, which means you can adequately plan and prepare for your shopping seasons every year. The best sources to use for reference are your own performance data from the same period of time in previous years. Each retail business is unique, so the most reliable seasonal goods information is always your own.
Specifically, you want to predict how much stock you’ll need and order it early. Your previous sales analytics can also reveal how much customers are willing to pay, the best sales times, and even which marketing methods net the most traffic or, better yet, completed sales. You can even pinpoint which social media outlets bring in the most conversions.
2. Use Pricing Techniques
Changing your prices may seem like a quick-fix solution to selling seasonal items, but there’s more to it than just putting a product on sale. The real question is how much do you change the price. Use the advanced pricing techniques like Charm Pricing and Weber’s Law from our free eBook The Ultimate Guide to Inventory Management for Multichannel Retailers (Chapter 2, Section 5) to find the perfect price points in both on- and off-seasons.
3. Try Product Bundling to Unload Leftover Inventory
Product bundling is when you sell different products together as a group: skincare sampler packs, shoes & socks combo, BOGOs, etc. This can be a great way to unload all the seasonal stock you have leftover after the peak season. Just group the seasonal products together with hot-sellers. Read our guide on how to use product bundling for more tips.
4. Sell “Opposite” Products in Your Off-Season
Sometimes you can complement sales by offering another seasonal product during your main seasonal product’s off-season. A footwear retailer might offer open-toed sandals only in the summer and thick boots only in the winter. If you can calculate your stock levels accurately enough, you can use this strategy to generate scarcity and cut down storage fees by only offering a certain amount per season.
5. Diversify with International Markets
It’s always the right season somewhere! If your seasonal products are based on climate, you can sell that same stock in another area of the world during the off-season.
For example, if you’re selling swimwear in the United States, during the winter months you can pivot to the South Pacific (Australia & New Zealand), southern Africa, or any number of South American countries. Some areas are always in-season, too — you can sell winter goods to Northern Europe or Northern Canada any time.
Takeaway: Come Prepared
If you get caught off-guard during your high-sales seasons, you miss a great opportunity that only comes once a year. Using inventory management software like ecomdash can help you cover your bases and ensure you’re ready.
For one thing, ecomdash makes analytics and sales data a breeze, with any information you need right at your fingertips, in the same dashboard you use to manage sales, deliveries, and everything else. That comes in handy for predictive analysis and demand forecasting, as well as experimenting with new product types if you want to try “opposite” seasonal products.
Moreover, if you want to expand into a new market like those in the Southern Hemisphere, ecomdash is designed for multichannel selling. You can sell on as many channels as you need, whatever’s popular in that region, and ecomdash will automatically update your stock levels and keep track of orders as normal. See for yourself with our 15-day trial for free, no credit card needed!