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Supply Chain Planning for Black Friday (and Cyber Monday)

Staying in the Black on Black Friday Requires Careful Supply Chain Planning.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), customer enthusiasm for Black Friday shopping is up 8% this year, and spending is expected to increase by 4% overall.

Black Friday is fast approaching, with its younger sibling, Cyber Monday, as the two highest retail sales days for many retailers. Whether your business manages your supply chain in-house or uses a 3PL partner, supply chain planning in peak seasons like this requires the use of supply chain industry best practices.

These supply chain planning best practices include:

Cross training and Cross docking

Prepare your team so that everyone is able to jump into whatever role might be the most in demand during this peak season. Ensure that all of your employees receive cross training throughout the year so that Black Friday and Cyber Monday won’t leave you with an imbalanced workforce. Not only does cross training empower your workforce and improve morale, it’ll save you in a pinch.

Cross docking is a valuable setup particularly during holiday shopping times, as retail stores ramp up order volume to keep shelves stocked. High volume cross docking operations allow for quick routing of goods from supplier to retailer, while keeping inventory carrying costs at a low level.

Prepare by expanding sale dates

The last several years, retailers have been starting their Black Friday sales earlier and earlier, with some starting on Thanksgiving Day itself. Some retailers, like, are offering deals under the Black Friday umbrella for the entire week—or month—of Thanksgiving. “Amazon’s early holiday deals could alleviate shipping bottlenecks by spreading out online orders,” according to International Business Times. Supply chain planning tactics like expanding sale windows are a great way to spread out the demand over a more manageable timeframe.

Use Your 3PL’s Value-Added Services

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the times of year that your third party logistics provider will become an extra benefit to your process. Use kitting and packaging to prepare high-demand items ready to go, and kit and pre-package many of them in preparation of the holiday season. You can use supply chain forecasting, focus groups and surveys throughout the summer months to establish trend items—and make sure stores and warehouses are stocked with a large quantity of ready-to-go items. Ask your 3PL if they offer temporary multi-client or overflow warehousing to handle increased inventory for peak seasons. Also ask if they offer custom kitting to include special holiday bonus gifts with your popular items—these types of promotions can contribute to a great customer experience that will not go unnoticed in this busy time of year.

Take Care of Your Employees

There is no worse time to lose employees than in the middle of the holiday season. However, due to the high-stress environment of a fulfillment warehouse or distribution center around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, coupled with the longer holiday hours, this time of year is at high-risk for employee turnover. As we’ve previously written about, higher job satisfaction leads to higher productivity, and Black Friday is no time of year to slack on your commitment to company culture. As much as possible, try and keep it light- and maintain open communication by having conversations with employees to make sure they feel appreciated during such a critical time for logistics.

Take advantage of Omni-channel Logistics

Peak retail times are the perfect time to take full advantage of omni-channel logistics. Omni-channel logistics takes advantage of nearby options by sourcing products from the nearest source to the location of the customer placing the order. For example, if a customer orders a gaming console from Best Buy on Black Friday, omni-channel logistics allows Best Buy to source that gaming console not from the default distribution center, but possibly from a brick-and-mortar store in the area close to the customer. This saves time and transportation by allowing a local store to prepare a package to be delivered via local logistics instead of being sourced from a large distribution center that might be many miles or even states away.

Your supply chain planning is put to the test during peak seasons like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but with proper preparation and a flexible range of options, your supply chain can meet these challenges nimbly. Our supply chain engineers are here to help support your business through peak times and slow times with industry-leading third party logistics services and expert supply chain planning. We are your dedicated logistics provider, and we are here to help you improve, grow and protect your business.

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