Peak shopping season–from roughly September/October through the holiday season and beyond–can be erratic and difficult to plan for even in the best of times, especially as it evolves ever-more complex shipping and delivery patterns.
But plan, we must. And that includes planning for agile supply chains and improved warehouse processes.
So, what’s the best approach, given the many issues impacting shippers right now that will remain with us for months to come?
Secure sufficient labor
The unemployment rate remains at record lows. Fewer people will be looking for a part-time job this peak season. The current driver shortage makes locating or hiring qualified truck drivers difficult.
In addition, if you’re a retailer, you’ll want to get ahead of the game and call temp services now to lock in labor for the holidays. Amazon is hiring 250,000 workers for the holiday season, and Target is adding 100,000, so there will be lots of competition for the workforce. You’ll also want to revisit training programs to ensure that seasonal employees can navigate the racks-or even provide in-store fulfillment for online purchases–within a day or two.
Enough pickers and packers within your warehouse will help ensure that all orders are ready at their allotted shipping times to meet customer demand. You can analyze historical data to understand past peak seasons and then estimate the number of workers needed based on sales forecasts and order history.
Plan for shifting holiday peak seasons
Retailers are learning that restricting deals to the morning after Thanksgiving, or even the weekend and Cyber Monday, can shut out potential buyers. Consumers should be able to put an item on layaway and pay over time or secure it before it flies off the shelf.
For a retailer, preparation must begin earlier to ensure items are in stock. An earlier start can also help flatten the peak-season demand curve. Regarding your inventory, it’s a good time to look at your inventory in-depth and determine what might be expendable to sell at a discount to make space for more in-demand items. You can also review sales data to assess the products often sold together, and if you have one overstocked product, you can consider offering it at a steep discount or as a gift with purchase. Maintain a safety stock of essential items to prevent stockouts during the holiday peak season.
If you’re looking to reduce on-hand inventory–or feel comfortable having enough stock of in-demand items before November 1–this is a great time to consider “pre-Black Friday” sales in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. However, Amazon has its Prime Big Deal Days on October 10 – 11. As a retailer, you might want to have some “big deal” during those times, such as free shipping, percent off, or buy one, get one free.
Use a 3PL to ease the burden and improve warehouse processes
Some shippers choose to partner with a 3PL that can provide visibility at every level of the supply chain, fine-tune the accuracy of your ETAs, and increase carrier visibility through constant data sharing.
A good 3PL should also help you implement a distributed warehouse strategy to keep inventory closer to customers. Or provide cross-docking to increase shipping speed by decreasing time in transit—and lead to additional cost savings and ensure customers receive their orders faster. If you need additional warehouse space, Nexterus helps clients find the right-sized warehouse in the correct location. The Nexterus team uses technology to search for the right location and size of a warehouse on the market, negotiate contract terms, and set up automated invoicing.
Choosing the right 3PL takes you beyond increasing visibility and warehouse capabilities to saving costs on transportation. They can help pair your business with carriers with the capacity for your needs and the ability to handle freight coming in by ship, truck, or train. This flexibility helps to reduce disruptions.
The companies that thrive during peak season plan well in advance, leverage technology, and remain agile in changing circumstances. The best alternative is working with a 3PL experienced in helping shippers prepare for peak season. Nexterus has that expertise, so contact us today.