Steve Dollase | October 31, 2014

Sometimes you need to move, and move fast. When you have to do it in reverse, you quickly realize it's not as simple as moving forward. If you've ever backed out of the driveway in a hurry and flattened a flowerbed in the process, you know what I mean.

There are things to know about moving in reverse. Driving a car, you have to turn the steering wheel differently because the wheels are turning at the opposite end of the car. And you don't just need to look at what's behind the car — you have to be careful not to hit the mailbox with the front bumper when you make the turn. The point is that when you're driving in reverse, you have to pay attention to what's behind you and in front of you.

Supply chain is exactly the same way, but with a great many more complexities. One area where it's far too easy to oversimplify reverse logistics is seasonal liquidation. As we head into the biggest product movement season of the year, traditional thinking would have some people believe that preparing for the holidays is all about forward logistics from September through December, and focused on reverse logistics from January onward. But moving too fast in reverse can result in missed opportunities.

Without the right attention to the whole picture, there are potential missed opportunities in both forward and reverse. Think about it: You can't risk having your reverse-bound product blocking any portion of your forward-bound holiday product's pathway. That can compromise your ability to move holiday product in the volumes you need to be competitive in adapting to in-season consumer-demand shifts.

On the reverse side, you don't want to move so fast that you miss additional sales opportunities on reverse-bound product. You could land in hot water for liquidating product quickly, only for the sake of clearing the path for the upcoming season, and doing so without regard for value retention. Or you could be a hero for moving the product and getting something for it in the process.

All too often, Inmar's supply chain experts see examples of opportunity-loss woe as we help companies develop reverse logistics strategies.

You do have options, and they not only help move product fast, but have good value retention capability. Seasonal product you're pulling back for the holidays may still be of great interest to secondary-market sellers — your seasonal removal may be a part of their holiday sales strategy. As we connect secondary-market buyers with product from our returns management clients, we see companies able to move seasonal product, excess inventory and returns, while retaining in a dynamic marketplace, both through our channel representatives the Inmar Remarketplace online auction service for secondary market buyers. And I'm continually impressed with how fast they are able to relieve themselves of that reverse-supply burden.

Remember, driving in reverse is only successful when you know what's in your path in both directions — if you want to do it without flattening a flowerbed or clipping a tree, you'll be at your best when you know what's back there.

What do you think are the keys to balancing forward and reverse logistics during high-volume periods? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.