For e-commerce logistics company Radial, Christmas is coming early. Very early
Ecommerce logistics specialist Radial Inc. is speeding up its forecasting process and taking other action as it prepares for a potentially tumultuous holiday shipping season, clouded by the impact of the Delta variant on consumer spending.
“There is just a lot of uncertainty right now,” said Laura Ritchey, chief operating officer of Radial. “We really think the volume will be higher than last year, around 15% or so, which is what we expect.”
Ms Ritchey said Radial, based in King of Prussia, Pa., Which in North America fulfills orders online from its network of 25 distribution centers, is advancing seasonal preparations, with the company allocating more warehousing and staffing space well before Christmas and the end of the sales increase of the year.
At this point in a typical year, Radial could check with retail customers about once a month to see what they expect demand to look like at peak holiday shopping, Ms. Ritchey said.
Instead, Radial “checks in every week, and for retail clients who might have more volatility, it could be twice a week,” she said. “And we expect that to escalate,” with the near-daily demand checks typically occurring. end of October and November also on the rise.
Radial’s preparations come as companies try to predict what the Delta variant might do for in-store purchases and general consumer demand, as merchandise delivery has been slowed down by supply chain congestion around the world, from factories in Asia to freight. outlets in the US Midwest.
The number of unknowns throws conventional expectations and forecasting tools out the window, forcing retailers and their logistics specialists to make contingency plans.
Some companies are pushing imports forward, which has increased congestion at sea gates and added pressure on strained logistics networks. Buyers frightened by shortages earlier in the pandemic might choose to stock up on holiday gifts early, making it harder for retailers to gauge demand.
The latest wave of Covid-19 infections in the United States could again reduce traffic in stores or cause people to revert to habits from the start of the pandemic, like swapping office clothes for loungewear, so that they load digital shopping carts.
Radial, which is owned by Belgian company bpost SA, expects consumers to mix up in-store and online shopping this year, for example by picking up e-commerce orders in person or trying things in store, then buying them online.
“At some point we will have to decide where the inventory is placed,” Ms. Ritchey said. “It’s probably even more important to just know the availability of the inventory and where it is, and to have a method in which we can get to the customer.” This could include shipping from a store or distribution center to a customer’s home, or preparing items for curbside pickup.
The company is also discussing with customers how to deal with delays if demand for the vacation exceeds expectations. First-time buyers might also have a hard time finding what they want.
“With some of these arrival delays, we can see consumers wanting to shop in August and product availability may not be until September,” Ms. Ritchey said.
The Delta variant did not affect operations at Radial’s warehouses much, although there has been “a slight increase” in absences in recent weeks, she said.
The company, which typically adds thousands of seasonal workers before the holidays, has raised wages and increased its social media ads to compete for workers in a tight labor market, Ms. Ritchey said.
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