Amid Crazy-hot East Coast Temps, Consider Four Tips for Weatherproofing Your Retail Business

As the month of December begins to wind down and shoppers scramble to find last minute holiday gifts, a large majority of U.S. retailers are beginning to panic because of their current overstock of cold-weather wear – compliments of Mother Nature's balmy 60- and 70-degree weather.

For perennial purveyors of classic winter gear like L.L. Bean and Lands' End, excess ski jackets can wait in the warehouse for next winter. But for most retailers, piles of fleece pajamas and fur-lined boots are theirs until Old Man Winter decides to make an appearance, or until they are finally marked down enough to move off the shelves. Those who survived the "Snowmageddon" last year are warning, "Just wait … Winter is Coming" and see no reason for retailers to write off the cold just yet. But as warm-temps wallop an already soft retail market, ThoughtWorks Retail provides four best practices for weatherproofing a retail business:
  • Smart analytics that can data-science the heck out of weather forecast models, year-over-year purchase trends by zone and customer buzz for market-level insights to provide more agile and adaptable seasonal plans.
  • Responsive, on-demand manufacturing using product-level insight to create small lots that meet market conditions. For brands like Shoes of Prey, this is easy. For retailers who have to place big orders months in advance, the pressure will be on brands and suppliers to offer more flexible manufacturing and distribution solutions.
  • Unified inventory that provides speed, flexibility and visibility across the entire supply chain. It starts with reducing product development and incubation cycles from months to weeks, and this doesn't only apply to fast-fashion retailers. It also means being able to track shipments, storage and stock levels regardless of location (vendor, in-transit, warehouse, in-store) is critical to deliver the omnichannel experience today's customers expect and demand. This allows retailers to quickly move products to the front of the warehouse, store or website – in the right locations - in response to rising or falling temps.
  • A platform for growth, which, among other practices, includes a website that works today and tomorrow. It's not enough to just withstand the load of Black Friday traffic without crashing, retail websites but have to be a dynamic system that allows product, merchandising and marketing teams to create highly personalized and immediately relevant offers, assortments and online displays that meet customer needs in real time beyond size, style and personal preference – sites need to be able to respond to what's "hot" right now – whether it's a pop-culture trend or the weather outside.
There will always be a degree of unpredictability in retail but the better prepared retailers are for change of any kind – be it economic, cultural, climate or otherwise – the more enduring their businesses will be.

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