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6 Last-Minute Steps to Prep for Black Friday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner. Here’s how to make sure your company is ready to take full advantage of these two huge shopping days.

Long thought of as a traditional sales bonanza in the U.S., Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) is a time when shoppers cumulatively shell out more than $5 billion to get a jump on their holiday shopping.

For 2018, Black Friday sales numbers are expected to hit $5.8 billion(15.3 percent higher than 2017), according to“Last year saw the first $5 billion online Black Friday ever, and there is an outside chance sales could even hit $6 billion this year.”

Not to be outdone by its brick-and-mortar counterpart, Cyber Monday(the Monday after Thanksgiving) is also on a tear, with sales expected to hit $6.6 billion this year, according to CBS.That represents an increase of 16.5 percent over last year, when Amazon customers worldwide bought more than 64 million items on Cyber Monday (or roughly 740 items per second).

Addressing the Challenges

From the logistics perspective, these two shopping days alone will account for a lot of trucks, trains, ships, and inter-modal carriers scrambling to 1) fill retail shelves for Black Friday and 2) fill customer shipments for Cyber Monday. And all of this will take place in a freight environment that’s already constrained by driver shortages, a capacity crunch, and changing regulatory burdens. The challenges don’t end there for shippers. Cumulatively, the National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales in November and December —excluding automobiles, gasoline,and restaurants —to increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $717.4 billion to $720.8 billion.

6 Steps to Take Now

If you haven’t already started shoring up your transportation supply chain ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, here are six steps that you can take right now:

  1. Have a “Plan B” in place. When laying out your seasonal logistics plans, factor in explore transportation alternatives to support last-minute fulfillment requests ahead of Black Friday. Doing this can help manufacturers avoid fines and charge backs associated with delayed loads, and help retailers avoid lost sales opportunities and missed revenue increases. Good options include dedicated trucks, trans-load shipments, expedited trucks, and additional warehouse stock that’s situated next to your major customers.
  2. Know where your products are in the supply chain. Right in the middle of the Cyber Monday rush is not the time to track down specific orders. Working ahead, figure out which are currently being manufactured, which are ready to ship, and which are in transit. Then, determine alternate sources of supply or other strategies that you can use to fill in any “gaps” and make sure the goods get to their respective customers on time (and in good shape). Having good visibility into your supply chain can also help you ward off delays associated with the possible UPS-Teamsters Freight National Bargaining Committee strike.
  3. Use trans-loading at the port of entry to reduce transit times. A big deal for U.S. manufacturers and retailers that are receiving ocean shipments from Asia, Black Friday is a great time to explore trans-loading in order to reduce transit times and ensure that the goods get to their destinations on time. The process of transferring a shipment from one mode of transportation to another, trans-loading is used when one mode cannot be used for the entire trip, such as when goods must be shipped internationally from one inland point to another.Other options include consolidating your freight, utilizing dedicated trucks, or leveraging multi-stop deliveries.
  4. Open lines of communication with suppliers, customers, and logistics partners. This isn’t the time to keep information close to the vest; the more informed your business partners are, the more successful and profitable your company will be this Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Make sure all partners understand what’s expected of them and what they should be focused on. By getting everyone on the same page and keeping all partners informed of the good, the bad, and the ugly, you can effectively manage expectations and avoid any major customer service issues.
  5. Identify(and fix)problem areas now. Once you gain visibility over your supply chain, look for any gaps or problem areas that could lead to shipping delays. DB Schenker can you’re your company cover those gaps, find alternative sources of supply, and/or secure transportation capacity in advance.
  6. Get help now rather than later. Don’t wait until it’s too late to hire temporary help for your warehouse, manufacturing plant, or distribution center. With the national unemployment rate hovering at a historically-low 3.7 percent, you’ll want to plan ahead and make sure there’s enough time to train workers and bring them up to speed on your operations. Ignore this step and you may miss deliveries, alienate customers, and lose sales as a result.

It’s no secret that Black Friday—and now Cyber Monday—present some of the biggest logistical challenges for companies and for their supply chains. The good news is that with advanced preparation, and the support of DB Schenker’s land team, companies can effectively shore up their supply chains now and take full advantage of these retail bonanzas this year, and for years to come.

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