Ah, the holidays. A time for peace on earth, goodwill toward men, family gatherings and an office Christmas party or two. And holiday shipping headaches. If you are involved in the logistics side of your business, the holidays can be more unpleasant than a week-long visit from your in-laws. Higher freight rates, surging demand and the reduced availability of carrier space can make October through December a real challenge. Throw in a supply chain crippling blizzard or two and you have the makings of a real Nightmare Before Christmas that Tim Burton would be proud of.
Short Holiday Season and Tariffs
With Thanksgiving falling late in the month, it will be a compressed holiday shopping season this year, so shippers are more anxious than ever to get their products to market. In addition, many shippers have delayed their shipments from China, hoping to realize a savings from a last-minute resolution to the tariff stand-off. As a result, many people in the logistics are predicting a late-season crush of orders.
5 Tips to Lessen The Stress of Holiday Shipping
So what’s a savvy shipping manager to do? Fortunately, there steps you can take to ease the stress of holiday shipping so it doesn’t turn you into The Grinch:
1. Plan Ahead: Sure, this may sound obvious to you, but not necessarily so to the folks in sales. It is especially true if your company is not in the retail space and management is not in tune to the retail crush. Be sure to remind that guy in Purchasing who always drops his rush order on you at the last minute that FedEx expects a record holiday shipping volume this year. Carriers may need longer lead times to find space for you and transit times will be longer.
2. Ship Early: Air, ocean and ground freight carriers have raised prices in the 4th quarter for decades. It’s as certain as a re-run of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Shipping early, even if just by a couple of weeks, can avoid carrier rate hikes and save your company big bucks that your boss will love.
3. Manage Expectations: Even if you succeed in educating the management at your company to the season’s constraints, it’s all for nothing if your customers don’t understand the situation. After-all, they are they ones that matter most, right? Just as you need to educate your own office, it is critical that you provide your customers with an awareness of increased transit times, seasonal pricing and the need to plan ahead.
4. Keep an Eye on the Weather: For those fortunate enough to live in the warmer corners of the United States, it is easy to forget about the misery that winter weather can bring to travelers and transportation companies. Shipping your company’s booth to your boss at the industry’s annual trade show in New York? What could possibly go wrong? Keep an eye on The Weather Channel for news on impending winter storms and route your freight accordingly. Shipping a few days early or via air instead of ground can make you a hero.
5. Keep Us In The Loop: Closing early for your annual office party? Warehouse shutting down between Christmas and New Years? Reduced holiday hours? Be sure to keep us informed of operational changes so we can work with you. Everyone in the transportation business is scrambling to keep up during the holidays. You will get better service and have a much happier shipping partner if you keep your local shipping company informed of any operational changes.
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This is an updated and expanded version of this article that first appeared in November 2016.