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Operations Q&A: Have You Created Your Holiday Season Business Checklist?

Operations Q&A: Have You Created Your Holiday Season Business Checklist?

October 8, 2014

Question: Have you started your holiday preparations?

Answer: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas are not too far off. Costumes to buy, turkey to prepare, gifts to purchase. Many of us spend precious time making lists to ensure that our holiday celebrations are magical, but what about your business-side holiday preparation?

After several years of disappointing holiday sales, last year showed a resurgence; 2014 is expected to exceed last year, according to many reports. The fact that this year’s holiday period will be historically short, with only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, will put even more pressure on warehouses, distribution centers, fulfillment and logistics. Those not prepared will miss huge opportunities that cannot be recouped.

Bottom Line: There is no time like the present to gather your troops and begin to prepare, if that process has not already been initiated. Here are some key items to include on your preparation checklist:

  • Forecasting – Based on last year’s experience and expectations for this year, project your needs for this season. Build models that include such considerations as units to be sold, time it will take for orders to arrive, safety stock and space required to store and access the needed inventory.
  • Staff – Seasonal spikes may require a shift in your staffing approach. A second shift may be required. A ramp up of seasonal employees might be an alternative. Whatever is required, make sure that you are ahead of the ballgame.
    • Begin the search sooner rather than later.
    • Make sure that new staff is properly trained before the crunch.
    • Evaluate your processes to ensure that they are highly efficient.
    • Review and upgrade your SOPs.
  • Warehouse optimization – It is likely that you will need to cram 10 pounds of sand into a five-pound bag for the upcoming holiday season. Walk the warehouse (remember the Gemba Walk from my blog post dated 9/10/2014?) to determine if changes to layout, slotting strategies and processes are necessary to handle the increased activity.
  • Communications – Whether with vendors or suppliers, having conversations now about your needs for the holidays is a wise move. Will there be changes to pick-up and shipping schedules by your freight carriers? Will orders from suppliers take longer than normal as they account for their business surge?

Take care of your holiday season business planning so that you can thoroughly enjoy your trick-or-treating, your Thanksgiving feast and your Christmas/Chanukah time with friends and family.

Lee Schwartz, former CEO and president of distribution and manufacturing companies, is principal of the Schwartz Profitability Group (SPG) that, for almost 13 years, has uncorked the operational bottlenecks of distribution and manufacturing companies, boosting their bottom line results. His consulting and operational turnaround work helps clients find solutions related to process improvement, supply chain management, inventory control, workflow design, and operational performance.

If you have questions regarding operations for Schwartz, please email him at

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