"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior" is a popular mantra in the psychology world. Whether it is true that you can predict an individual’s future actions based on their past may be debatable — but in business, it seems to be true that our customers buying patterns are predictable enough that we can plan according to their past buying.

This means that if you sold out of boxed Christmas cards in mid-December, you probably need to order more for next year. If no one bought figurines of turkeys this season to decorate their Thanksgiving table, they are not likely to do so next year.

The fact that consumer behavior patterns are somewhat predictable (taking into account weather factors, of course, as well as changes in fashion and trends) makes it imperative that you keep seasonal records.  They need not be elaborate, but any notes — written or photographic — will be helpful when you go to market in the coming months.

I know how I’ll be spending part of Christmas Eve, taking notes on the seasonal merchandise that is left after the busy days before the holiday.  It would actually work to do this note-taking a week or so earlier, because you can’t really count items sold as desperate last minute purchases as strong sellers. But because we do a post-holiday sale, I know I can’t look at what is left at inventory time to see which items sold at full price.

In our office we have a ring-binder for each holiday (I know, very retro) and these notebooks go back several decades. It’s fun to reminisce about what sold well when we first opened our store — but it’s essential to know what’s sold well this season when I’m planning ahead for 2014.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder