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Retail: The past doesn’t always dictate the future

Phil Mullis

29 June 2017

Lots of retailers invest in data and information relating to patterns and growth trends when deciding what to stock in their stores. For smaller retailers, however, it can be difficult to find the cash. One solution could actually mean looking to the future instead of studying the past.

The weather is a classic example of how retailers use previous trends to second guess the likelihood of how well their seasonal goods will sell. Even though the weather in Britain is renowned for its uncertainty, retailers are still struggling to match consumer demand. The fashion sector is particularly at risk but grocery too among a number of others. After all, the change in demand can be as quick as the change in the weather.

In hot pursuit

One example of this demand-spike showed how ice cream, of course, became a high-demand product during the recent soaring temperatures. Major retailers reported the largest annual revenue rise for four years with an increase of 4% on last June alone. A little more surprisingly, quiches were flying off the shelves as demand soared by 11%.

The electrical industry too saw the benefits as people went out and bought more cooling fans. John Lewis saw a 26.5% boost in swimwear and nightwear sales and both men’s and women’s casualwear recorded double digit growth.

It means that retailers have to be more flexible to meet this demand – particularly as the recent hot spell was so unprecedented that no amount of previous data could have seen it coming. Without fully stocked-shelves, disappointed customers will shop elsewhere, it’s as simple as that.

Cooling off

But, what can be done? Sure enough, we cannot predict the weather, but, there are things we can do to mitigate the risk. In a previous blog, I wrote about how speeding up your supply chain can offer a more fluid business model can have an immediate impact on increased profits.

There’s also a possibility that you could make your ranges less seasonal. Beachwear is still required all year round for those winter sun seekers who are off to the southern hemisphere for their holidays. Knitwear too for the winter holidaymakers, or for when the British weather does let us down.

Batten down the hatches

Having ranges available all year can combat unforeseen weather changes and then over buying stock that will then be heavily discounted. This will also help your customers to be more loyal to your brand as they will be clear on your product offering and the price you are selling for. Heavy discounting can actually cause confusion among customers and it re-aligns their expectations against full-price items. Knowing your market and knowing your best sellers, watching for trends etc., will help you to stay on track with customer demand and reduce your need for over ordering and discounting.

If you would like some further information for your retail business, contact the retail and wholesale team at Wilkins Kennedy to see how we can help.

About Phil Mullis

Phil Mullis

Phil joined the firm in 2008, became a Partner in 2012 and heads up the Retail and Wholesale sector team for Wilkins Kennedy. Phil advises companies, predominately from retail, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and food brokerage companies. He is passionate about helping the small guy win out against the big guy with bottomless marketing budgets. It is fair to say that most people see Phil as an unnatural accountant – it’s not about the numbers for him, it’s about working with the people and helping them grow and realise the potential of their business.

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