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9 peak season pitfalls – and how to avoid them

By Chris Dawson August 20, 2019 - 10:00 am

No-deal Brexit and a short trading period between Black Friday and Christmas could cause havoc for retailers this year. So how do you avoid the pitfalls and ensure the “Golden Quarter” is as golden as it can be? Here are nine tips from James and James Fulfilment.

  1. Don’t forget to forecast

    Creating a realistic forecast for your peak season sales is a must. It will ensure you have enough stock and resources in place to fulfil those extra orders, but not too much.

    It’s simple to do. Look at last year’s Q4 data, identify which days and products were your best and worst performing, and forecast up or down based on your year-to-date performance.

  2. Order your inventory now

    It’s tempting to replenish stock on-the-fly, once peak season is underway and you know how sales are going. This can be dangerous though.

    For many fulfilment centres, the process of receiving stock in bulk and getting it ready for pick and pack is a bottleneck in November. So order your inventory from suppliers now, to ensure it’s ready to go on Black Friday.

  3. Get ready for Brexit

    The above point will be especially relevant if a no-deal Brexit happens on the 31 October – you won’t want stock stuck at customs, when November sales are ramping up.

    Remember to follow the Government’s advice, by registering for an EORI number and transitional simplified proceduresonly 30% of businesses that need them have them. Also ensure you know your product commodity codes, to add to customs declarations.

    This should mean you can import stock from overseas suppliers smoothly – and ship orders to EU consumers with minimal customs delays and appropriate duties.

  4. Stock up on basics

    While it’s vital to ensure your products are fully stocked, don’t forget everything you need to get those products to customers.

    If you’re fulfilling orders yourself that could mean anything from additional packaging and address labels, to extra staff and storage, to back up printers and internet connections.

  5. Know your shopping days

    Since Black Friday arrived in the UK in 2014, promotions seem to get bigger, start earlier and run longer every year. But 2019 might be different.

    With a late Thanksgiving, there are less than four weeks between Black Friday and Christmas this year. And with Christmas falling on a Wednesday, consumers will be buying (and expecting next-day delivery) until 23 December.
    So do you start those promotions in early November or squeeze the same sales into December? eBay’s Christmas Tracker could help you decide what’s best for your market.

  6. Don’t let quality slip

    As peak season sales increase, your resources can be stretched thin, as you rush around despatching parcels or dealing with “Where’s my order?” support tickets.

    To ensure this doesn’t impact your customer experience, with incorrect or late orders, think about your processes now, identify pain points and how to address them. If you hire seasonal workers, train them on your way of doing things, to avoid additional mistakes.

  7. Set your customer expectations

    If you do think that your despatch and delivery times will suffer over peak season, then be upfront and let customers know, with a clear delivery policy on your storefront.

    You may also want to consider a different returns policy for discounted items or gifts. And if you ship orders to EU consumers, be clear about customs delays and import duties should a no-deal hit.

  8. Automate your Christmas Day

    With the growth of mobile shopping, Christmas Day is now an important shopping date in its own right. We see orders come in steadily from dawn until dusk, with only a dip around Christmas dinner time.

    If you want to cash in on the trend without spending your own Christmas Day in front of a screen, think about what you can do to automate it – it’s simple enough to schedule email marketing or social updates. You could also outsource your fulfilment, so you don’t come back to a ton of orders after Boxing Day.

  9. Plan for January returns

    As consumers make impulse purchases in pursuit of sales bargains or Christmas gifts, return rates can increase from around 5-10% to as high as 40%. We see the most returns hit in the second full week of January.

    To make these returns a positive experience for your customers, ensure you have extra people and good communications systems in place into 2020, so you can issue refunds quickly and keep customers informed

Want more tips on getting through Q4? Head over to the James and James Fulfilment website to get your free “Plan for Peak” white paper, newly updated for 2019.

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