Case Studies in What To Do (and Not To Do) During the Holiday Rush

The holiday season is upon us, which means anyone in the logistics and fulfillment industry is ramping up for the busiest time of the year. There’s a lot to keep track of during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind to help you successfully navigate the holiday rush.

Do Hire Early

All signs point to another busy holiday season for online shopping, which means a busy holiday season for everyone along your supply chain. Large companies are already anticipating hiring thousands of seasonal workers — this year Amazon alone is planning to hire 100,000 temporary employees to work in fulfillment centers. Macy’s is looking for 85,000 seasonal workers, and UPS is planning to add 95,000 people to its workforce this season.

Although the jobs are there, in some areas of the U.S. it’s already proving difficult to fill them. With unemployment rates at recent lows, many workers who relied on seasonal positions now have steady full- or part-time jobs. There’s likely to be more competition among employers this holiday season, so start signing on employees early.

Don’t Overpromise

Angry customers demanded refunds in 2013 after orders promised to arrive by Christmas didn’t. Many retailers extended their deadline for customers to order and receive their purchases by Christmas, and a lot of customers took advantage of that delay. Shipping companies got hit with more last-minute packages than they could handle, resulting in lots of gifts missing on Christmas morning.

“You had a perfect storm of events from the consumer side, the retailer side and the shipping side,” said Craig Johnson, President of Customer Growth Partners LLC. “Normally those kinds of schedules are all kind of prepared or coordinated with the carriers.”

The big lesson from 2013 is that everyone along the supply chain needs to be in communication so retailers and shippers can set realistic expectations and keep customers happy.

Do Have a Safe Holiday Season

A warehouse during the holiday season doesn’t exactly look like Santa’s workshop. Processing extra orders makes the holidays a particularly hectic time in fulfillment centers. The combination of the faster pace and many new seasonal workers makes it important to address safety.

New employees who haven’t worked in fulfillment before might not be familiar with warehouse safety. Keep everyone safe by providing plenty of safety training and having clear emergency plans in place.

Don’t Ignore the Forecasts

In many parts of the U.S. winter weather can throw a wrench into the best made fulfillment plans. Although you can’t do anything about the weather, keeping an eye on big storms can help you divert shipments or arrange earlier deliveries to beat the weather.

You should also be watching the forecasts over areas you can impact as well — namely holiday retail forecasts and emerging trends.

The National Retail Federation predicts a 3.7 percent increase over last year’s holiday sales, pushing estimated spending up to $630.5 billion. Now is the time to work with your supply chain to work out how to handle any increases in holiday sales.

Keeping your eye on product trends is especially important for retailers going into the holiday season. By catching emerging trends, you can work with suppliers and shippers to make sure you don’t run out of the season’s hottest gifts.

If you need a partner to help you strategically manage and successfully move your products out of the port and onto their final destination this holiday season, be sure to download our latest eBook — Speeding Time-To-Shelf and Cutting Costs — a must read for today’s Logistics Managers.