Do you ever wish that you could just turn back the clock when it comes to the Holidays? It seems like every December, my siblings and I harken back to Christmases past and pine for those memorable holidays of yesteryear.  We recall fondly the magic of the season, the gifts under the tree and the closeness of family, minus of course the dynamics that were sure to follow in later years.  We just wish December could be like it used to be.  I’m not talking about Uncle Ned passing out in his Yorkshire pudding from too much egg nog, or not getting the gift from Santa that was #1 on your list, but rather all of the fun happy times. We selectively block out what we perceive as negatives, and remember the good times through our own personal filters.

I believe that most retailers are guilty of this every single year.  Even the most disciplined merchant seems to have selective memory when it comes to sales and inventory forecasting during the Holidays. Can we all agree in principle that the years of December being dedicated to full price selling and clearance markdowns being taken in January are over and have been over for a long time? We are in a new era. This year we experienced greater discounting in December than any time that I can recall. MAP pricing violations were observed by retailers and vendors alike. I am aware of at least one vendor who ran afoul of their own MAP policy by breaking price on the company website, and expecting retailers to not follow suit. How crazy is this getting?

While the December of 2015 is still fresh in your mind, make a New Year’s resolution to commit to your buying plan knowing that you really have no control over factors external to the business.  Thinking you can manage areas outside of your control is like putting your inventory dollars on #7 and spinning the Roulette wheel.  You could get lucky, but most likely you will end up losing money. You can’t manage the weather, the possibility that a social protest may block your street and store entrance, or how the stock market will perform.  You do not know if the Fed will manipulate the interest rate, what the unemployment rate will be, if your health insurance premiums will change, how high the minimum wage will be, or who might win the Presidential election.  The point is to take control over the things you can manage.

I propose a complete shift in mindset.  Forget how you “think” or “wish” December business should be and plan for what it WILL be… a strong albeit Promotional month.  Begin by setting the stage with vendors NOW for a successful December next year.  I would suggest considering a breakdown of Holiday open-to-buy dollars for next year as follows: 30% allocated for new Holiday product, 20% reserved for reorders and fill-ins, and 50% earmarked for off-price buying. Naturally, this will vary based on the segment of the retail industry that you operate in.  This approach will enable you can compete on a more level playing field. With a slight paradigm shift, I believe December can become less stressful and more functional once again.

I wish all of you a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

Ritchie Sayner

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