How Coffee Roasters Should Prep for the Holidays - Part 1: Stocking Up On Inventory

August 31, 2023

Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you fail to plan, your plan will fail?”

This statement couldn’t be more true for coffee roasters heading into the holiday season. Experiencing a successful holiday season requires approximately 75% planning and 25% execution. Your goal should be to set yourself up for holiday success by planning and preparing everything ahead of the season. 

And, a prosperous holiday season starts by stocking up on everything from green coffee to packaging supplies. 

In part one of our holiday planning series, we’ll show you:

  • How to properly assess and plan your holiday green coffee inventory needs
  • What steps you need to take to have holiday merchandising completed well before November
  • How to keep track of all inventory (without giving yourself a headache!)

We want roasters to have as low stress of a holiday as possible, starting with proper inventory management. So, let’s get started!

Is Your Green Coffee Good to Go?

Running out of a specific green coffee right as the holiday rush begins is every coffee roaster’s worst nightmare. What’s even worse? Running out of a critical green coffee in the middle of the holiday season!

Avoid creating your personal version of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” by organizing your green coffee inventory at the beginning of September.

Start this process by analyzing the following:

  • Coffee blend staples — Review the green coffees you need to have on hand for your top-selling, signature blends. Determine if your current inventory levels of each lot will last through the holiday season and beyond. If not, get in touch with your importing partners now!
  • Single origin lots — Take stock of the existing green inventory you offer as a single origin coffee. Based on current sales trends, will you have enough inventory for the holidays? Do you have enough of a coffee variety to fully stock your shelves and satisfy holiday shoppers?

Each green coffee should have a designated minimum inventory level. When a green coffee reaches this threshold, you know it’s time to reorder ASAP.

👉Don’t have minimum inventory levels set for your green coffee lots? Go do this right now! (You can come back to our article later. Trust us, your holiday sales will thank you.)

If you find yourself in need of green coffees, it’s time to forecast how much inventory you’ll need to purchase to make it through the holidays. Open your coffee roasting software, navigate to your production reports, and determine how many pounds of each coffee was roasted and sold over the last four to six months. This is your baseline inventory requirement. 

You can choose to order this amount, or add 10-15% extra to accommodate the increase in holiday sales. It all depends on whether you take a conservative or “better safe than sorry” approach to your inventory. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.

  • PROS
  • CONS
  • Conversative Approach
  • Controlled costs during the holidays.
  • Won’t crowd your warehouse or storage facility with extra inventory.
  • Scrambling to get more inventory if a larger than expected wholesale order comes in or holiday sales are greater than last year
  • May incur a significant rush fees from importers when ordering more during a peak season
  • Overstocking Approach
  • You can feel confident knowing you’ve got plenty of green coffee to make it through the holidays
  • Gives you the flexibility to push larger wholesale orders without worry
  • Larger green inventory cost upfront
  • Takes up more space than usual in your warehouse or storage facility

⭐Don’t forget about your holiday blends! While we recommend creating blends with green coffees you already have on contract or in stock, make sure your inventory calculations factor in the green coffee you’ll use in your seasonal coffee blends.

Preparing Your Holiday Product Line

After documenting current inventory, the next step is to determine what you plan to sell during the holidays. This step will help you better understand how much green coffee you need to source, contract, and roast, along with any additional inventory needs such as shipping, packaging, and production supplies.

We find it’s helpful to break each product down by the following characteristics:

  • Type of coffee product — Roasters typically have at least three categories of coffee products: blends, single origins, and decaf. During the holiday season, a large percentage of your sales will come from seasonal blends. 
  • Roast level — Differences in roast levels can turn a green coffee from one product into three or more. A washed Colombian coffee can be sold exclusively as a light roast (one product) or as three different products by roasting this one coffee to different roast levels: light, medium, and dark. 
  • Bag size — Many roasters offer customers a single bag size. Others offer multiple choices, including 12-ounce, two-pound, and sometimes even five-pound bag options for retail customers. 
  • Distribution channel — Do you offer certain coffee products exclusively online or to wholesale customers? Make sure these products are included in your holiday inventory plans, too.

Here’s a few examples of this approach in practice:

  • ‘Tis the Season Blend: Medium roast coffee blend, sold in-store and online. Available in-store in 12-ounce bags and online in 12-ounce, two-pound, and five-pound bags.
  • 123 Blend: Dark roast blend roasted exclusively for ABC Café. Sold in five-pound bags to wholesale account only.
  • Colombia Gesha: Light roast single origin coffee, sold online only in 4-ounce bags.
  • Ethiopia Yirgacheffe: Medium roast single origin coffee, sold in-store and online. Available in 12-ounce or two-pound bags.

Of course, every holiday product lineup also includes merchandise and gifts! Repeat this process with the additional products you plan to sell this holiday season. Retail items can include:

  • Apparel — Be sure to break this down by color, size, and type (shirt, hat, sweater, etc.
  • Coffee mugs — What type of mugs are you offering? Are they different colors? Sizes? Functions?
  • Brewing equipment — From coffee grinders to manual pour over drippers, there are so many types of coffee equipment to sell during the holidays. And, if you accidentally overstock, these items can be sold well into the new year and beyond.
  • Gift cards — Gift cards are a great way to generate sales during the holidays. But, you need cards on hand to complete the transaction! Order physical gift cards early in season to ensure you have enough.

⭐️Pro Tip: Double-check the inventory levels of retail items also being used in gift baskets. You’ll want to ensure that you have enough inventory on hand for both retail shelves and gift basket products. 

The better you can document and visualize your entire product lineup, the easier it will be to calculate how much inventory you need to have throughout the holidays.

Plus, understanding your holiday product lineup streamlines the promotion process. You’ll know which coffees have plenty of inventory on hand and can be heavily promoted throughout the holiday season. 

👉Download our latest eBook, “The Coffee Roaster's Guide to Profitable Holidays: Strategies for Increased Sales,” and discover how to best promote your roastery this holiday season!

Stock Up on Supplies

Proper green coffee inventory management is vital to a successful holiday season. But so is the rest of your operational inventory! 

Take note of existing supply inventory levels and determine how much more you’ll need to order before the holiday season begins. This applies to supplies such as:

  • Coffee bags (all sizes!)
  • Coffee labels
  • Shipping boxes, bags, and padded envelopes
  • Shipping label rolls
  • Printer ink
  • Printer paper
  • Stamps and ink
  • Gift wrapping supplies
  • Coffee cups and lids
  • Receipt paper

Make a list of all the items you need and place your orders ASAP! Try to have all of your supplies arrive by the beginning of November at the latest. This way you’ll have everything available as the shopping holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday arrive.

Managing Your Inventory During the Holidays and Beyond

The holiday season starts by assessing your current inventory before planning and ordering the right amount of product and operational inventory to get you through the end-of-year rush.

Once this inventory is in your hands, how are you managing it? A common inventory management tool among coffee roasters is spreadsheets

Roasters build out elaborate spreadsheets with complex equations to plan production roasts, track green coffee and operational inventory, keep track of wholesale orders, and so much more. While this approach can work well with micro-roasters or those with smaller teams, it still relies on manual data entry and a working knowledge of the spreadsheet’s functionality to operate properly.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, chances are that you’ll have limited time to manually enter every inventory count as it happens in real-time. And what happens when the one employee who understands how to use the complex spreadsheet goes on a vacation for the holidays?

Ultimately, spreadsheets can become a major roadblock to enjoying an efficient and profitable holiday season.

Another inventory management option is to implement software like RoasterTools. Software built just for growing coffee roasters is designed to make your roastery more efficient (and your life easier during the holidays) by streamlining inventory management tasks, production planning, and order fulfillment processes.

You’ve got enough on your plate during the holidays and relying on a spreadsheet to manage coffee, retail, and operational inventory can put a wrench in your seasonal growth and profitability.

Sign up for a RoasterTools demo today and be fully prepared to conquer your inventory this holiday season.

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