Restaurants are some of the best at monitoring the markets and buying when prices are right -- see this article about how McDonald's McRib only shows up when pork prices are way down -- but the practice can carry over into any purchasing department, including yours. So, how can you hone your category management skills to take advantage of pricing changes?
1. Know the Category
Knowing the category, and the products within it, is the most critical part of buying at the right time. Understanding how the goods are priced -- if there's an index involved, if their prices are affected by speculators or other market factors, and if there's any seasonality to the particular market.
2. Work with Suppliers
If you lack knowledge of the product and category, you can likely glean some knowledge from suppliers. In a category like IT, where product lines and specific SKUs have definitive lifecycles and a competitive marketplace, a good supplier relationship can get you the inside information you need.
Need to upgrade 200 monitors? HP is running a promotion in two weeks, but if you need printers, Model X is deeply discounted as they clear out stock.
This kind of in-depth relationship with a supplier takes work, but once an open and healthy communication stream is established, it can pay benefits. This goes far beyond an approved supplier with a web portal.
3. Be Flexible
The same mentality that allows travelers with a rubber schedule to capitalize on deeply discounted last-minute air fares can allow you to take advantage of good pricing. Look at your supply chain for a minute - do you have excess warehouse space? Can you accommodate/use a similar product if a functionally similar good is priced exceptionally well compared to the desired product? A bit of corporate flexibility can pay dividends when its time to take advantage of a low price.
So while these takeaways are part of what's needed to effectively manage a category and leveraging that management for additional cost savings, they're not the whole package. If you have questions, we're here.