A merchandising calendar is a marketing tool used by businesses to plot out marketing activities over an extended period of time. It is very useful as a communication tool that shows other employees the schedule of various advertising campaigns and other important marketing events for the company. The more complicated merchandising calendars follow the products from manufacturing through evaluation and into stores, followed by more complete examination of their success in the market.
The simplest form of the calendar is a list of all the marketing events that work together in order to establish products or services. This includes the length of time ads will run, how long any billboards will be up and any discount days or special deals. You can also create a more general calendar for your business that focuses instead on primary business activities, with marketing only as a subset. This lets you include other important events like meetings with other business leaders and important organization activities. You easily set aside a work-oriented calendar that you can lay on a desk or pin up on a wall, reserving it for merchandising information.
The more complicated type of calendar requires a Gantt Chart, which is a cell-based chart that lists the time elements horizontally (such as days or weeks) and then all planning, production, promotion and evaluation activities along the vertical axis. Cells are shaded in depending on how long each activity will last, so you can see what activities overlap. These charts can be created in Excel or a similar program, and can be reused with each product.
As merchandising software has become more popular, several companies offer downloadable options so that you can buy a merchandising calendar program or package online. Many of these programs allow you to test the software for a certain period of time, which is useful for those who want to make sure the software has all the functions you need. Being able to check off completed activities or have tasks automatically rearranged based on parameters is very important for some businesses.
Some of the most popular programs include MerchanNet 4.0, Sofmos Calendar, Google's Delphi Calendar and the ApPHP Calendar. Before buying a new program, check all the attributes of your current software system to make sure the calendars already included in your system cannot be used instead.