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    Expert Column: How Grocers Can Ensure Holiday Product Availability

    Stay ahead of the curve by making real-time inventory adjustments

    By Drew Hardy, HAVI Global Solutions

    Are we dedicating enough time to plan for seasonal products?

    The November/December holiday season is a key success factor for any grocer. Between increased overall grocery spending and once-a-year promotional products targeted at the holidays, such as eggnog, this is an exciting and potentially stressful time for grocers.

    As holiday planning begins, marketers are dreaming up new colors and fragrances of products, merchandising teams are thinking of new ways to bundle products, logistics teams are improving the speed to market (and consumer), and store managers are thinking through how to lay out their stores for the holidays to capture impulse buys and maximize sales. With the amount of activity taking place and all of the hard work, are these seasonal products receiving the amount of attention they demand as they flow through the supply chain?

    Managing the supply chain at any time of the year is challenging, but it can be especially so during what's typically the busiest time of the year. How do you change and adapt, presuming you don't have a large man in a red suit and a sled making your deliveries? How do you ensure that you have the necessary supplies and product to meet demand while limiting additional expenses such as the use of warehousing buffer stock?

    Enabling Dynamic Planning

    Most food manufacturers and consumer goods companies understand the opportunities presented during November and December, and develop their holiday promotions, marketing plans and supply/demand forecasts months in advance. This is an important part of the overall plan for the year. To manage this, some grocery retailers use data from previous seasons and market insights to predict sales. Information is shared along the supply chain to ensure the grocer has the ingredients, components and products it needs in the right place, at the right time.

    However, the best-laid plans can and do go awry and predictions are rarely 100 percent accurate year on year. How do you ensure you don't run out of the holiday versions of your customers' favorite candies, or avoid having to sell too many of those candies at 50 percent price reductions on New Year's Day?

    By Drew Hardy, HAVI Global Solutions
    • About Drew Hardy Drew Hardy is senior director, analytics & supply chain services at Downers Grove, Ill.-based HAVI Global Solutions.

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