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Now's the Time to Rev Up Your Holiday Supply Chain

Don't wait until the last Thanksgiving minute.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Although the holiday season is a wonderful time for giving and receiving gifts and spending quality time with family, it also comes with a lot of stress. Business owners in particular are under pressure to ensure there are no breaks in the supply chain and they deliver what their customers want on time, and there are a few key variables that may affect how early you want to prepare. 

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For instance, while the change of the seasons can be beautiful, fluctuations in weather -- especially major storms -- can impact your ability to keep inventory in stock and execute timely delveries. And in terms of that stock, it’s crucial to order the right amount of inventory so you don’t have to make last-minute follow-ups or end up with excess product to move after the holidays. Other factors include changing consumer habits, such as online shopping and in-store pickup, as well as the possibility of driver shortages, whether it be for deliveries to stores or directly to homes. 

Related: 5 Ways Businesses Can Take Advantage of Global Holiday Seasons

Now that we've outlined some possible obstacles, here are tips for how to overcome them.

Forecast Early

While you don’t need to start making orders at the beginning of the year, looking back at the last year and forecasting your needs and the timelines you’ll have well before the holidays roll around will help you avoid issues when it really counts.

Test Things Out

If you’re switching suppliers, trying a new supply chain or know there have been some changes made, run tests if you can and make sure you factor in a grace period that will allow you to get everything taken care of and still have time to make corrections. If things go well, you’ll be ahead of schedule, but if they don’t, you’ll be able to get problems worked out before they start seriously affecting your bottom line

Train Seasonal Staff

Many places will hire seasonal staff to help with the influx in business that often comes with the holidays. If you plan to hire temporary workers, make sure that you fully show them the ropes. That way, if someone calls in sick or there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, there will be multiple people available who can help keep things running as smoothly as possible. And if you find a few particular staffers are fitting in very well, they'll potentially be for a year-round position if you decide you want to hire them full-time.

Related: To Maximize Holiday Sales, Start Planning Your Marketing Early

Take Advantage of Analytics

Analytics are extremely important, because they allow you to see trends and get information about how things went in the past and make forecasts and projections about how things will go in the future. Analytics is the key to successfully getting your supply chain ready and managing the busy holiday season.


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