4 Tips for Q4 Inventory Management
by Liz Adamson
Holiday shopping is here, and with it increased sales and faster moving inventory. Even if you don’t sell traditional holiday gifts you will still benefit from the increase in traffic to the Amazon marketplace. By now, you should have forecasted your sales, ordered accordingly and, if you are using the FBA program, shipped your holiday inventory into the Amazon fulfillment centers.
But that’s not all there is to it. You’ll need to stay on top of your inventory management throughout Q4 if you are going to take full advantage of the biggest shopping season of the year! Here are four tips to a successful fourth quarter.
1. Watch Sales (Daily and Weekly) and Continue to Forecast
Even the most thoughtful sales projections are not going to be 100% accurate. Competitors stock out, new competitors jump in, new trends take off or fizzle out. You don’t want to run out of your best sellers or be stuck with too much inventory.
Checking sales on a daily and weekly basis will help you stay on top of unexpected changes and avoid costly stock outs. If you are using the FBA program and have more inventory available to send in, you’ll want to do that as soon as possible if a product looks like it will sell out. If you have a supplier who can get a restocking order out quickly, be ready to get those POs issued. Using an inventory management tool like RestockPro can help you factor in lead times and alert you when something needs to be restocked.
2. Watch for Slow Moving Products
Don’t forget to watch for inventory that is not moving as quickly as expected. If you are using the FBA program, Amazon storage fees for October through December increase dramatically to $2.35 per cubic foot (up from $0.64 per cubic foot), so you don’t want units sitting for very long, or you’ll be stuck with a big bill at the end of the month.
Also, don’t forget Amazon’s inventory cleanup which is just around the corner on February 15. You will want to have all units that will be older than six months by that date cleared out to avoid long-term storage fees. Q4 traffic will give you your biggest opportunity to move through any stale inventory.
So how do you get slow-moving products jump started? Advertising and promotions will increase traffic and conversion rates. Take advantage of Sponsored Product ads and Headline Search ads (headline ads are for registered brand owners only) and get an optimized ad campaign going for those slow moving products. If you have items that sell particularly well during the holidays, create a holiday campaign that focuses on seasonal keywords like “gifts for dad,” “gifts under $25,” etc.
Don't forget Amazon's promotions tool. Once almost hidden about halfway down the product page, Amazon recently changed placement of promotional messaging. It's now found right next to the price so you can easily run buy-one-get-one or percent-off promotions that customers will see and act on.
3. Don’t Forget January
While not as big as November and December, the first few weeks of January are still great sales weeks. Customers are using gift cards, exchanging items or buying that special something that they didn’t receive during the holidays. And as they are doing their personal shopping, they are adding household and other items to their cart. So as you are checking your sales and adjusting your forecast, make sure your popular items will still be in stock for January. Take a look at your January sales from last year to see how it compared to Q4 and forecast accordingly.
4. Plan for 2018
If you source products from China, and you know you will need more inventory for February, March and beyond, you will need to start your restocking orders now. If you wait until January or February your orders may be delayed by Chinese New Year when factories will be shut down for a week.
Smart inventory management will be a major factor in the success of your Q4 sales. Be sure to take advantage of inventory management tools like RestockPro to take the guessing and manual labor out of the process. The biggest shopping season of the year means a lot of work for sellers; executed well, it may lead to that well-deserved vacation funded by the rewards of your hard work.
Originally published on November 13, 2017, updated June 10, 2019
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.