Brace yourself! Holiday peak is here.
By: Jyoti Kapoor, COO, Speed Commerce
The 2016 holiday shopping forecasts are rolling in and all signs are pointing to online shopping as the go-to channel for consumers. Just take a look:
- The National Retail Federation is predicting that more consumers will do their shopping online this holiday season, up from 6.8% from 2015.
- Deloitte expects eCommerce sales to grow 17 – 19 %.
- Adobe Digital Index is estimating online sales of $8.4 billion on just three days: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.
Retailers and outsourced fulfillment providers have been ramping up for months anticipating the annual spike in eCommerce sales. For most, that spike doesn’t get much steeper than the days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.
Distribution and fulfillment centers have been preparing for months for just this moment. With the countdown to Black Friday entering the single digits, here are five last-minute checks for your warehouse.
Keep building your team
Thanks to lower unemployment and stiff competition for warehouse associates, hiring seasonal associates continues to be challenging for many retailers and distribution centers. This trend will no doubt continue right up to Christmas as your staffing needs increase as well as the expected attrition with your existing workforce.
Continue to engage with human resources and your outsourced recruitment partners to find new hires. Work to keep your existing team engaged and incentives throughout the season. The fast-paced work and longer hours may lead to lower employee morale. You can keep it up with performance incentives, open communication and verbally recognizing their efforts.
Confirm your emergency plan
Mother Nature is always the random variable when it comes to peak season. While your warehouse may have an emergency preparedness plan, when was the last time you tested or updated it?
If you don’t have time for a complete run through, there are a few key areas to confirm. Update your internal emergency procedures and associated contact lists in the event you need to put your plan in place. Confirm that you have 24/7 contact information for key utilities like electrical, phone and Internet. In the event of a power outage, you’ll need to fire up your generators. Confirm they are in working condition and you have the supplies on hand to keep them running for more than a few hours.
Ready your supplies
Can packing tape cripple your operations? It can if you don’t have it. The same goes for not having the right size box. Maybe you can ship in a different size box, but there’s a good chance it will cost you more to do so.
Double check your forecasts and confirm you have the right amount of supplies on hand, and maybe a bit extra, so you don’t delay the shipping process. In the event you need more supplies brought to the warehouse, reach out to your vendors now to make sure you can get the items you need with a quick turnaround.
Connect with carriers
UPS is forecasting that Black Friday-to-New Year’s Eve deliveries will be up more than 14 percent. FedEx is anticipating a record-breaking peak season with each of the four Monday’s between Thanksgiving and Christmas being the busiest in the company’s history.
Constant communication with your carriers is vital to making sure the orders you picked and packed within your required timeframes make it into your carriers’ network and are not left sitting on your docks. Confirm that your carriers are aware of the sales so they are prepared for the increase of packages leaving your warehouse.
Get ready for returns
While you’re making final preparations to get product picked, packed and shipped, you also need to plan on returns. Your returns department should occupy a separate section within your warehouse, not simply shoved carelessly somewhere in the receiving area or in someone’s office.
Returns need to be organized away from the rest of your merchandise so you can inspect them for any defects, perform any necessary refurbishing or repackaging, and then returned to stock or sent back to the vendor. If you have certain products requiring a specific refurbishing process (hygienic cleansing or steaming, for example), this is especially important so that your areas are clean and the necessary tools are immediately available.
Peak periods are crucial to retailers and e-tailers alike as they work to achieve annual sales quotas. There’s no such thing as over-preparing when it comes to peak season.
Jyoti Kapoor is the Chief Operations Officer at Speed Commerce. He has extensive supply chain and operations management experience within technology companies, spanning multiple international and US assignments.