3 Ways Retailers Can Fully Prepare for the Holiday Season

Tags: Retail, Demand Planning, E-commerce

Retailers know Americans will still be spending this holiday season, even if it is in a wildly atypical manner. Smart retailers are taking the following steps to ensure they’re not left with a lump of coal this holiday season.

1. Finalize any online fulfillment and inventory management decisions.

Retailers of all sizes are aggressively wrapping up any decisions about their inventory management and online shopping vendors. Malls and retail facilities are closed due to the pandemic, which necessitates online shopping. If a retailer isn’t ready to take most of their orders via the web, they’re in trouble.

However, most retailers have come to realize the short and medium-term impact of COVID-19 and have been working to identify ways to streamline internet shopping and fulfillment. As we enter the typical start of peak shipping season, they need to finalize their decisions and fully implement and test solutions that allow customers to make purchases without being in a physical store.

2. Treat manufacturers as partners, not vendors.

“Transparency" is among the most over-used words in supply chain management. Shippers want their carriers partners to provide real-time updates on where goods are. Manufactures want to know precisely where on the ocean a steamship might be at any given moment. Truckers want to know when they’re getting paid. And it all falls under the term “transparent.”

However, due to the pandemic, retailers need to stop thinking about transparency in these terms and start to understand the symbiotic relationship between manufacturers and sellers. Many smartest manufacturers are now looking for ways to add extra capacity and redundancy to their list of vendors. The idea is that if an outbreak slows production in China, for instance, there might be a facility in Europe that can pick up the slack immediately.

Swapping imports from coast to coast across the US will have a cascading effect on an entire supply chain. Retailers that aren’t well-versed in the manufacturers and OEMs' business continuity plans need to get up to speed quickly. After all, the decision-makers at a toy company can, and will, have a tremendous impact on where the toys at retailers like Walmart wants to sell will ultimately end up coming into the US.

3. Build your own shipping elasticity.

The prevalence of just-in-time shipping remains a common, and core component to most supply chains. This means many DCs and warehouses have a skeleton crew of employees ready to move goods just as shelves are getting close to empty.

However, responsible companies know that one driver getting sick could have a tremendous impact on the entire operation. Many companies are taking steps, such as asking multiple employees to self-quarantine if there is a chance of exposure to COVID-19. It’s the right thing to do, and the only way to promote safety among essential workers.

This doesn’t however, mean that these companies are willing to accept massive disruptions. Smart retailers are building contingency relationships across their supply chains. This means pricing out air cargo in case COVID-19 strikes the crew of a steamship. It means finding a service that can turn on capacity at a moment’s notice if a trucker is stranded or unavailable. These companies understand the human element of the pandemic, but are also taking steps to ensure their own continuity to keep employees on the payroll.

COVID-19 has created a truly new situation for supply chain practitioners. In the retail world, this means far more online orders, increased transparency (real transparency, not the lip service many logistics professionals have come to know as a buzzword), and a focus on scalable redundancy. Those companies that meet these three goals will end up having a truly Merry Christmas after all.






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