Seasonality can change - SKUFood
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Seasonality can change

As we move through the summer we are about to go through a big change in sales. When we hit labour day weekend school is back in and people’s shopping habits change. For many holidays are over and it is back to the routine of work and school. The weather also changes and people start to cook eat differently. We are about to enter one of the bigger seasonal changes for retailers. Merchandising should reflect these changes. This week we are going to define a key word that impacts your sales.

Seasonality are the fluctuations in sales related directly to each item. Every item has their own seasonality. Some items deliver more extreme fluctuations and some sell more consistently throughout the year.

Obvious examples of seasonality are products that sell well during well-established holiday sales periods or related to changes in the weather. Consumers are looking for these items and suppliers and retailers can benefit from the spikes in demand.

Seasonality can change

As our population changes, the seasonality of items changes. Products can be popular with certain ethnic groups or people looking for specific types of food and beverage. Suppliers need to monitor sales patterns and make sure they know the seasonality of their items.

It really is the supplier’s job to understand who will buy their products and when they will buy. Often you will have to help your customers, the retailers, understand this seasonality. They are managing hundreds or thousands of SKUS and sometimes they need some ‘guidance’. They do not always want to admit it but if you encompass it in a conversation about maximizing sales, they might be more inclined to listen.

Consumers are not always predictable. Do not assume because your item did well last year that history will repeat itself. You still need to create demand and give people a reason to buy. With inflation and talk about high food prices buying patterns change. I was talking to one supplier who said she is working harder than ever to give people reasons to buy.

Planning can maximize the opportunity

Although it might seem obvious, if you don’t have the inventory in the right place at the right time you will never maximize sales. This is even more true for items with swings in the seasonality of their sales. You might need to negotiate over and above space to increase holding power at retail to capitalize on sales.

Start at the beginning to ensure the item is set up properly and you have a plan in place. For seasonal items related to a specific occasion like Halloween this can start up to 12 months in advance. When I was at Loblaw, we would plan the next year’s season right after the current year. While it was fresh in our mind what worked and what did not.

Once the plan is in place monitor the inventory through your own system and through your customer’s system. Visit stores when it is supposed to arrive. Even a week for highly seasonal items can make or break the year. If it does not show up at the store do everything you can to resolve the issue. My experience is that there is always a reason, not a ‘glitch’ in the system.

Once it hits the stores make sure the displays are being built and communicate with your customers. The best call is ‘the displays look great’ but if that is nto reality this is when your relationships get tested. Do as much as you can without telling them how to do their job.

Monitor sales and compare to the plan. Often it is a short window for seasonal items so there is not much time to react.

Sales growth with seasonal items

It is always a dilemma with seasonal items…should you try to grow more when they sell the most or perhaps in the lower times. The answer is…it depends.

If consumers are convinced an item is directly related to a specific event it can be a challenge to deliver more sales in the low periods. You really need to create a need for them. An example could be hot dog buns. In Atlantic Canada a lobster roll is a treat and it can be made from fresh or frozen lobster meat. Certainly more of a summer item but frozen lobster meat is available all year and perhaps there is a chance to sell more hotdog buns when retailers put frozen lobster meat on sale any time of the year. This might not set the sales on fire but retailers are looking for any growth these days with challenging sales.

Another consideration is to drive more sales when there is already demand. Often this is more related to better execution and getting the inventory in exactly the right spot at the right time. You might need to increase your presence at retail and get out there a week or two in advance. Talk to stores, ask about the plans and make sure they are ready for the short but intense selling period.

There is no right or wrong answer. You need to try different tactics and measure the results.

Every item has some seasonality, some much more than others. Know when your item sells. The more seasonal the sales are, the more critical the execution is during the key selling period.

If you have any questions about seasonality, you can always send me an email or call me at (902) 489-2900.


Food inflation seems to be slowing and primarily due to fresh fruit products. Fresh fruit and vegetables are commodity driven where supply and demand globally has major impacts on pricing.

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