Oct 12, 2018

holiday retail logistics

October is an interesting (and by interesting, we mean busy) month for supply chain professionals. It’s the (sort of) calm before the holiday storm, and it’s the perfect time to get your retail logistics program in gear before kicking it into overdrive in November, which is way easier said than done. This is because the retail industry, and the supply chain that supports it, evolves each year. Consumer trends change, as do the best practices for shipping and logistics. 

As you prepare your business for the holiday season, take a few minutes to review the data from previous years, including ecommerce and consumer trends, that can affect the decisions you make this year.  

Holiday consumer trends are evolving
Holiday shopping has always bolstered retail numbers with each passing year, but consumer trends are causing shippers to change their strategy. Brick-and-mortar store sales may be fading with each passing year, but ecommerce is booming. Last year, retailers pulled in more than $108 billion in online sales. Retail customers in 2018 are expected to shop online more than ever, and shippers will be taking advantage of parcel, LTL and PTL shipments to provide the level of service and speed modern consumers demand.  

While ecommerce numbers will likely break records again in 2018, that doesn’t mean bulk shipments of products and retail displays will not keep shippers and carriers busy this year. As we noted in our Q3 report, the economy is booming, shipments are up, and retailers are expected to see strong sales this holiday season. 

How you can prepare
As we head into the holiday season, there are many things you can do to optimize your logistics program:  

  • Organize your warehouse: place higher selling items closer to loading bays and group SKUs that are commonly bought together to increase pick and pack speed. 
  • Review your list of carrier resources and plan routes that will increase shipping speed while keeping your rates manageable. 
  • Review packaging best practices to avoid damages and returns.

surge in reverse logistics
Two key issues for shippers every holiday season are returns and reverse logistics. Shoppers return about $90 billion of unwanted gifts every year, and 51% of those returns are made in a single month: January. While this wasn’t as large of a problem many years ago – returns simply meant placing items back on store shelves – online shopping and returns have made reverse logistics substantially more complicated. As ecommerce plays a greater role in holiday shopping, shippers are fine-tuning their plans to retrieve unwanted items from customers and return them to warehouses, distribution facilities, etc. To remain competitive, many offer this service for free, or at least for a very reasonable price. 

Get a jump on your holiday planning
Whether you are shipping a ton of individual orders, several FTL shipments, or delicate, large-scale retail displays, a dependable logistics partnership is essential. We leverage a large network of carriers as well as the USPS to ship products to every major market in the country (and even internationally). Our retail logistics programs are customized based on your shipping, fulfillment and warehousing needs, and we focus on optimizing your business. Ready to talk retail shipping solutions? So are we! Get in touch with us today to jumpstart your holiday planning.