Peak season and holiday shipping impacts can hit the logistics industry as early as August, lasting through early January.
The period naturally spells tighter capacity and slightly higher rates as shipping volumes increase.
It is imperative that you prepare in advance for holiday shipping to ensure that your order pricing is not subject to inflated holiday rates and at risk of service failures.
Service Failures Abound During Holiday Shipping Season
There are a few factors that add up to shipping difficulty during the holiday season.
As a sizeable number of consumer product brands rely on the holiday season for a decent chunk of their revenue, many vendors ramp up their production and supply efforts during this time of year. That means more freight orders need to be fulfilled.
But because carriers limit their hours to accommodate drivers and families around the holidays, it means their operations are attempting to complete more hauls with less available service days as most carriers have blacked out dates around holidays.
Most are closed for Thanksgiving and have reduced hours the day before and after. The same goes for Christmas. This noticeably shrinks available capacity for your freight.
To compound the situation further, with an increased demand for freight services and an increase in orders during peak, it is common for carriers to over commit.
This often leads to service failures as they scramble to cover the increased volume, which means freight left on the dock and missed deliveries. When fulfilling retail purchase orders this is highly problematic, particularly during the busiest shopping season of the year. Transportation service failures equate to lost sales and retailer penalties or fees.
How Can You Prepare Your Holiday Logistics Operation?
It is key for thriving during the holiday season. You must understand what your freight needs will be during the more hectic time period. Determine the amount of freight you plan to ship during this window and share that information with your transportation partners far in advance. This will allow you to lock in capacity and properly schedule freight pickups and deliveries.
Build in Extra Time
Waiting until the last minute is never a sound decision in the world of logistics; however, its effects are amplified during the holiday season. On top of limited capacity, weather delays, carrier issues, and other unforeseen events that are more common this time of year can throw a wrench in your holiday logistics
Zipline’s less-than-truckload experts recommend that you build in an additional two days of transit around the key dates in the holiday season. That will provide an adequate buffer time for problem-solving. There’s nothing worse than having empty shelves leading up to Christmas.
Additionally, if you do not give your transportation partner or carrier ample lead time, you are bound to pay for it. With an urgent holiday delivery, rates spike substantially, and capacity is scarce. Working ahead is one of the most important things you can do to keep costs down and hit delivery standards during the holiday peak.
Know Carrier Holiday Service Schedules
Every carrier sets their own holiday schedule. Don’t get caught assuming a carrier is operating when in fact they are taking time off. Many have limited operations leading up to and following a major holiday, meaning during they may perform minimal line-haul services and very limited pickup and delivery services. A 3PL partner should help gather and share these operational deadlines on your behalf.
Prepare for Known Holiday Surcharges
Because of increased volumes and demand for speed, many parcel carriers automatically increase their rates during the holidays. This is particularly true for UPS and FedEX who add peak charges from October through January. Plan in your budgets for slightly higher parcel shipping costs to match the influx of holiday demand. Or like many shippers opt to do, move your larger volumes prior to the holiday peak.
If you have enough volume, you can also opt to move your parcel shipments over to LTL during holiday peak and surpass the increase in rates. Depending on your minimum order quantities this could help you secure noticeable savings.
Ensure Order Visibility
For all the reasons previously listed, it’s imperative that you know where your orders are during the hectic holiday shipping season. Ensure you have tracking in place. Luckily, in today’s technology rich freight environment, you have numerous options.
- Add a pallet tracker to your shipments and follow along with updates.
- Request that drivers use GPS tracking.
- Ask your 3PL partner what visibility tools they have available. Zipline Logistics offers our Summit platform where you can see real-time updates from GPS trackers and from communication with carriers.
Work with Retail Logistics Experts
Partnering with a logistics firm that understands the complex, nuanced world of retail shipping will drastically help your chances of success during the holidays. A retail-geared transportation partner can pair your freight with a vast network of preferred carriers that understand the delivery needs at the nation’s most challenging receivers.
Contact Zipline Logistics for Holiday Shipping Success
Zipline Logistics is comprised of retail logistics experts who can help shippers of consumer products ace transportation into stores or distribution centers during the holidays. Our retail-trained operations teams and service-first culture can help CPG shippers hit on-time delivery standards and achieve optimal outcomes.
Need help with your holiday shipping?