Retailers relying on last year's sales models to forecast availability in the run-up to Christmas could slip up because Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, it has been claimed.

Tim Kershaw, director of supply chain consultant Libra Europe, said grocers should consider rationalising SKUs and arrange more direct-to-store deliveries in a bid to avoid empty shelves and disgruntled customers.

"The actual volume of trade on that Sunday will be difficult to predict. Retailers' problem will be aligning stock in a way that best matches customer demand. In the run-up to Christmas the product range should be reduced by temporarily delisting items that are not big Christmas sellers. This creates shelf space and supply chain capacity.

"Substitution analysis, such as that available from TNS Worldpanel, makes a good tool to decide how many types of carrot are needed to minimise the range while still maintaining customer service.

"Aim for direct store deliveries to minimise the stress on distribution networks. Large bulky items like produce can be delivered direct to large stores.

"The best thing senior management can do, however, is not to panic. This period is unstable enough without imposing another layer of volatility."