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Holiday S&OP Outlook for Retail: Evolving consumer demands illuminate pain points

by Bridget McCrea
Contributing Writer,

The period from the Thanksgiving holiday through Christmas and into January 2014 will be critical for retailers as many scramble to attain profitability for the entire year during this short, 5-week period of time. This year, The National Retail Federation expects sales in the months of November and December to marginally increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion, over 2012's actual 3.5 percent holiday season sales growth. The forecast is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales growth of 3.3 percent.

For the 2012-13 holiday shopping season, reported on how retailers' use of S&OP (sales and operations planning) and on how many organizations struggled with the allocation and location of inventory across multiple selling channels.

This year, Mike Griswold, vice president of research for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, Inc., says retailers are more prepared for the onslaught. Those using ERPs like Microsoft Dynamics, for example, are well positioned to execute on both the demand and operations sides of the distribution equation and "figure out where inventory needs to be in order to meet demand," says Griswold.

"This isn't the retailers' first rodeo," says Griswold, whose own research reveals significant upticks in online order volume from year to year. In particular demand this year, he says, is the "order online, pick up in store" option. "Retailers' supply chains continue to meet those growing demands," says Griswold, but he adds that many "behind the scenes" manual processes still exist in the typical retailer's supply chain. "Those manual operations impact supply chain efficiency. So while retailers are prepared for the season, it's been through a lot more brute force than we'd like to ...

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About Bridget McCrea

Bridget McCrea covers business and technology topics for various publications. She can be reached at

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