Moving Average

A forecasting technique that calculates the average of a specified number of recent data points, used to identify trends and smooth out fluctuations in demand.

What is Moving Average?

Moving Average is a statistical technique used to smooth out fluctuations in time-series data. It calculates the average value over a specific time window, helping identify trends and patterns. There are different types of moving averages, such as Simple Moving Average (SMA) and Exponential Moving Average (EMA). Moving averages are valuable for trend analysis and forecasting in retail, but they may not be suitable for highly volatile data.

How Moving Average works

  • Choose a Time Window: Determine the number of data points to include in the moving average calculation. This time window is typically represented by a specific number of periods (e.g., days, weeks, months) depending on the data frequency and the level of smoothing required.

  • Calculate the Average: For each position of the time window, sum up the data points within that window and divide by the number of data points. This gives the average value for that position.

  • Slide the Window: Move the time window one period forward and recalculate the average. Repeat this process until the entire dataset is covered.

  • Create the Moving Average Series: The resulting values from the average calculation form the new time series, known as the Moving Average Series.
Moving averages are commonly used for demand forecasting, inventory management, and sales analysis. For example, a retailer may calculate a 7-day moving average of daily sales to identify sales trends and seasonality patterns. This can help in making more informed decisions about stock replenishment and promotional strategies.

Pros of Moving Average

  1. Smoothing Data: Moving Average helps to smooth out data fluctuations, reducing noise and revealing underlying trends. This makes it easier for retailers to identify long-term patterns and make more informed decisions based on a clearer picture of the data.
  2. Simple and Easy to Use: Moving Average is a straightforward and easy-to-understand method for analysing data. It doesn't require complex calculations or advanced statistical knowledge, making it accessible to retailers of all sizes.
  3. Useful for Short-Term Forecasts: Moving Average is particularly effective for short-term forecasting, especially when dealing with data that has high volatility or irregular patterns. It can provide quick insights into recent trends and help retailers adjust their strategies accordingly.

Cons of Moving Average

  1. Lags Behind Rapid Changes: Moving Average relies on past data to calculate averages, which means it may not react quickly to sudden or rapid changes in the market. As a result, it might not be the best method for forecasting during periods of significant shifts in customer behaviour or market conditions.
  2. Not Suitable for Long-Term Forecasts: While Moving Average is useful for short-term forecasting, it becomes less effective for long-term predictions. It tends to smooth out data too much, making it less sensitive to long-term trends and shifts in consumer preferences, which are crucial for making strategic decisions.
  3. Influence of Outliers: Moving Average can be heavily influenced by outliers or extreme values in the data, potentially distorting the overall trend. This can lead to inaccurate forecasts, especially when dealing with data that contains occasional irregularities or anomalies.


Below you will find answers to common questions
What is the purpose of using Moving Average in retail inventory management?
The Moving Average method is employed in retail inventory management to smoothen fluctuations in product costs. It calculates the average cost of inventory items based on recent purchase prices. By using Moving Average, retailers can maintain a consistent and stable cost basis for their products, which helps in preventing sudden cost spikes or dips that could impact profitability.
How does Moving Average help in demand forecasting for retailers?
Moving Average is a widely used technique for short-term demand forecasting in retail. By analysing historical sales data, retailers can calculate the moving average to identify trends and patterns in customer demand. This information is then used to predict future demand, aiding retailers in making informed decisions about stock replenishment, production, and marketing strategies to meet customer needs efficiently.