With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, 3PLs need to make sure that they are flexible enough to handle a dramatic increase in demand from their retail customers.
The shopping phenomenon Black Friday and Cyber Monday originate from America where retailers offer incentive deals in order to attract an increase in sales over a 4-day period through wholesalers and ecommerce platforms.
The idea was conceived as a unit mover for high street retailers, a way for stores to shift a lot of stock at a time when most people in the US have time off work for Thanksgiving however, it has also taken off in other countries. For example last year UK sales increased exponentially for 24 hours; websites crashed and sales records were smashed as shoppers spent a staggering £810m in one day.
This year, analysts predict that the event will be even bigger and that the UK will see its first ever £1billion shopping day. According to Visa, spending is predicted to be up by 22% and see £360,000 spent every minute.
So what can 3PLs do as warehousing and e-commerce providers to ensure that they are prepared for what is set to be the biggest sales event of the year from November 27th to November 30th?
Planning is essential if retailers want to be able to hit the ground running and stay afloat over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend so they should partner with a 3PL that is knowledgeable, flexible and has the capacity to shift large amounts of stock in a small amount of time.
Operations need to be able to run as smoothly as possible and 3PLs should ensure they can offer a trusted and fully updated warehouse management system (WMS) which can handle demand with as little delay as possible. To this end, all system upgrades should be carried out in good time before the November period so that the WMS doesn't halt or slow down fulfilment services.
One key requirement for any 3PL is to be flexible, none more so during peak periods such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday when retailers expectations and demands will increase.
It's therefore essential to have a multi skilled workforce that can hit the ground running in every area of the warehouse so that, when necessary, they can be moved into the areas which are seeing the most demand.
Having a strong reliable team is also vital. 3PLs should make sure they invest in spending time training them so their employees fully understand processes and have better knowledge of both the business and their individual roles.
A close relationship with temporary employment agencies is also crucial. Agencies should understand 3PLs business requirements in terms of necessary employee skills and shift patterns. CML has an agency representative based in-house who is in daily contact with our operational management. This relationship ensures that when needed we can recuit the right people based on the required demand.
Resource planning should not only be carried out when it comes to staffing levels but also with consumables such as packing boxes and tissue paper etc. As simple as it sounds, 3PLS should make sure they always plan one step ahead so that when it comes to meeting demand they have a surplus of consumables at their disposal.
It's also vital that 3PLs integrate and communicate with retailers in order to have the knowledge and understanding to work collaboratively with retailers in peak periods rather than being primarily reactive to them.
They should be able to make adjustments for increased need for transportation as well as make sure they have thoroughly recorded retailers' sales stock and clearance stock and that all employees are fully briefed and all warehouse management systems have been updated on which items are for sale and which aren't before promotions begin.