The holiday peak season is the Super Bowl or World Series of the retail and e-commerce world. For brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, and omni-channel retailers alike, peak season accounts for a substantial percentage of total annual sales. In a normal year for retail, late summer and early fall hails an influx of imports and bulk deliveries meant to bolster inventory in advance of the holiday peak, but unfortunately, 2020 is not a normal year.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in e-commerce sellers operating at or above peak season levels for months on end, taxing unprepared supply chains. Meanwhile, many brick-and-mortar retailers have gone into bankruptcy or closed stores due to sales losses associated with the coronavirus. As if sales-side issues weren’t enough, delays at ports and difficulty purchasing from overseas manufacturers continue to strain the retail supply chain. As the retail industry struggles with these and other pandemic-related challenges, the holiday peak season looms closer every day.

For businesses already operating at peak capacity, the thought of accommodating additional demand over the holidays is an intimidating proposition. This blog will offer tips and suggestions to help your e-commerce or retail distribution operation keep up during increased peak season demand.

1. Check Your COVID-19 Procedures

Appropriate staffing is perhaps the biggest risk facing any distribution operation right now. As peak season approaches, it’s important to reevaluate safety measures and related training to ensure that your workforce is doing everything they can to avoid viral transmission. This is doubly important as you bring on seasonal hires who may not be familiar with the coronavirus policies you’ve implemented.

Here are some basic policies you should have in place:

  • Face coverings/masks in all inside areas
  • Accessible handwashing stations
  • One-way traffic in aisles that are too narrow to allow social distancing
  • Stringent cleaning and disinfecting policies on all shared areas and equipment
  • Physical barriers between workstations
  • Access control to limit non-employee visitors

In addition, make sure you have appropriate inventory levels of personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer, soap, and other necessary items to accommodate your larger seasonal workforce.

2. Higher Budgets for E-Commerce Shipping

Revisit your budgets and projections for e-commerce sales. Your customers will likely expect low-cost or free shipping, but your operational costs will undoubtedly be significantly higher than normal. The U.S. Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx have all announced significant peak season increases on parcel shipments. Given that online sales are expected to grab a higher-than-normal percentage of peak season sales, it’s important to account for higher volumes and prices in advance to ensure your distribution operation has the resources it needs to maintain a quality customer experience.

3. Have the Right Technology

Make sure you have the appropriate technology to efficiently distribute the goods you sell. A quality Warehouse Management System (WMS) is the cornerstone of any distribution operation, so make sure that you have one of your own or that your logistics partner offers one as part of their fulfillment service package. A high-quality WMS is even more essential in the age of coronavirus, where facility movements must be uniquely optimized and balanced for safety and efficiency.

Beyond the WMS, an advanced transportation management system (TMS) will help you provide real-time or near-real-time shipment tracking for your customers. This level of visibility has become a standard part of the e-commerce customer experience, so failing to provide it may discourage repeat purchasing and negatively impact your brand.

4. Make Sure You Have Enough Space

Peak season may threaten the capacity of your existing fulfillment center. Peak season buying typically starts to ramp up after Halloween, and some experts believe it will start even earlier in 2020. There is very little time left to expand your storage capacity before the peak season sales increase. If your projections suggest you might need more space or your warehouse crew is already stuffing pallets of imported goods into any empty corner they can find, you would do well to seek out temporary or pop-up storage solutions to accommodate your increased inventory levels.

About Phoenix Logistics

Between Phoenix Logistics and our affiliate Phoenix Investors, we maintain a comprehensive and continuously expanding portfolio of industrial real estate that currently spans 21 states. In addition to our full portfolio of e-commerce fulfillment, brokerage, and logistics capabilities, we’re prepared to help you meet your increased demand with a new warehouse or distribution center staffed by our knowledgeable employees and optimized using our advanced warehouse management system. We’ve taken comprehensive steps to ensure the safest operation possible at all of our warehouse facilities.