As the busiest time of year for retailers, the holiday season can be a roller coaster of preparation and execution across all areas of business. From gauging the latest shopping trends to staffing temporary employees, there are several moving pieces that need to work together to succeed. One part of the puzzle that certainly can't be overlooked is inventory and supply chain planning.
(1.) DEVELOP A SHIPPING STRATEGY
Your shipping strategy is fundamental to ensuring you will have the necessary inventory to keep store shelves or order fulfillment centers stocked for customers. Perhaps the biggest challenge you may face this season compared to those of previous years is the ongoing freight capacity shortage. With fewer drivers and more freight needing to be moved, capacity will become stretched even thinner as the retail shopping season gears up.
Book Shipments Well Ahead Of Time
To ensure that you receive your orders in time, plan shipments as far ahead as possible. If you wait until a week ahead of an anticipated customer surge, you may struggle to find capacity in certain markets. Prices may also fluctuate during peak shipping weeks. Work with your suppliers to nail down shipping dates so that you can book space with your carriers sooner than later.
Define Strategy For Expedited Shipments
More often than not, expediting a shipment is necessary when products surge in popularity and begin to fly off of shelves. Making sure your customers have access to the gifts they are searching for can cause a headache when your inventory begins to dwindle.
To that note, plan a strategy for expediting shipments before you actually have to book one. Consider the change of price you may have to pass on to the consumer to make up for the extra shipping fees.
(2.) POSITION ADDITIONAL INVENTORY NEARBY
If you run a business that runs quickly through inventory but lack storage space, consider nearby temporary warehousing solutions. Also known as just-in-time warehousing, a service provider can store your inventory and deliver it to your location as needed.
The upside to this strategy is that you don't have to engage in a long-term warehousing contract, and you can avoid having to expedite a shipment. By having your backup inventory staged nearby, your service provider can generally make a same-day delivery at a standard cost.
#ShipperProTip: Want to learn more about Just-In-Time Warehousing? Check out this article on the benefits and thinking behind this strategy.
(3.) PREPARE FOR RETURNS
One of the most challenging aspects of the holiday season for retailers can be the aftermath. Many purchases are often returned due to damages, wrong sizes and a variety of other reasons. To recoup losses, retailers are often able to ship the returned goods back to their suppliers for a refund or rebate. However, the process can often be tedious and time-consuming.
To reduce the complexity of reverse logistics, try to consolidate your return shipments when possible. Shipping in bulk can reduce your costs in the long run. While many returns can be handled by parcel delivery, it may make more sense to combine your parcel shipments into a bulk order.
By utilizing these shipping tips, you'll have a better chance at overcoming any supply chain hurdles you may encounter this holiday season!