Figuring Holiday Sale Inventory

2012 Union Square Holiday Market

2012 Union Square Holiday Market

The applications for large holiday fairs come out around this time. Last year Wink and Flip had a booth at the Union Square Holiday Market and what amounted to a holiday season pass at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar in Williamsburg. Taking on the responsibility of a sizable holiday market can be both terrifying and gratifying.

Big business begins buying inventory for the holidays anytime from now until August. For smaller businesses, such as those that belong to the New York Etsy Team, product is handmade and ramping up for holiday inventory may have already begun. Talking to other designers, it seems the worry about having enough inventory can be a major obstacle to booking big holiday events.

How can you be sure you’ll be able to make all those holiday customers happy? One way to figure the amount of inventory you’ll need for the holidays is to work backwards: Decide – in a dream world – what you would like to make in terms of gross holiday sales. Then look at your best single sales day for 2012: Where was it, what were the conditions? It may very well have occurred during the holidays of the previous year.

Now, work backwards and figure out what that day looked like in terms of product breakdown. In other words, how many pieces of your product (necklaces/sewn animals/candles/soaps) did you sell that day? Then, further break down the day as best you can so you are able to see exactly what comprised the sales in each category within your business. For instance, for a jewelry company, how much of a $2,000 sales day was done in rings, bracelets, and headbands? Divide each of those sales totals into the $2,000 sales figure and you now have a breakdown of percentage of sales for each category. So, you might find that on a $2,000 day, 60% of sales were necklaces ($1200), 20% were bracelets ($400), 10% were rings ($200) and 10% were headbands ($200).

The next step is to choose your sales, apply and cross your fingers that you are admitted. Analyze each show. How many days does it run? Brooklyn Night Bazaar was eight two-day events, or 16 nights. Union Square was about six week, or 42 days.

We took the company’s per day figures and multiplied them by the number of days those markets were held. That would give us a feel for how much inventory we would need. But since not all days are anyone’s most successful day, we would round down, so we didn’t make too much excess inventory. Of course, there is always the problem of not getting into the shows for which you have produced inventory, but most designers running a business at this level will get into some serious holiday shows.

Most people who run handmade businesses are also producing product during the holidays, usually to catch up with sales. But it’s not easy to run and business and produce its inventory at the same time.

While it’s true that we have not yet sunk our teeth into a single cob of 4th of July corn yet, the time for crunching Christmas numbers is upon us. Good luck!