If you fail to plan for peak shipping season, you should plan to fail. Learn why from ProShip president, Bill Schroeder

That’s it, I’m done. Last night, I clicked the checkout button, and at 11:33pm on November 17th, that was it, I finished my Christmas shopping. I’m normally done pretty early, but this was a record, even for me. In full disclosure, wrapping them all is a completely different story, but that’s not the topic at hand. During a normal year, I finish purchasing most of my gifts before Thanksgiving week, and I hold off on the items I am very certain will be on some Black Friday special for a steeper-than-normal discount.  

Why so early this year? If you must ask, you haven’t been paying attention. I’ll point your attention here: NRF Predicts Highest Holiday Retail Sales on Record 

Every year, this amazing machine that is the American (and global) supply chain, competes in our equivalent of the Superbowl: Holiday Peak Shipping Season. When it’s over, there are winners and losers, and we all take a collective breath and start our post-mortems (and we swear we won’t repeat the same mistakes). 

We’ve been through this a time or two, we know the playbook, the pattern, and the timing, but this time around, it’s different. We have never gone into the Peak season with the same combination of circumstances and events that we are looking at now. Even in 2020, when we faced the “unprecedented” repeatedly, it still felt like the situation was semi under control. It was tough, we had to get creative, and we responded. In January, we looked back and that was something to be proud of, we rocked it, and all the unprecedented records we broke were quite a feat. We headed full speed into February and vaccinations and wow, normal has to be right around the corner. Yay us!

What to expect this peak shipping season

So here we are today, I finished my shopping early because I wish I knew what was going to happen. Anyone who tells you that they know, is simply making it up, thinking wishfully, or in a different industry. However, there are a couple of things we can be very certain of.

  1. It’s going to cost more than we planned with inflation hitting fuel so hard. That isn’t going to ease before peak is over. [UPS] [FedEx] 
  1. Labor is going to impact operations across the board, which is easy for me to predict as it’s already happened and is going to continue. [CNBC: Retailers Look to Staff Up Ahead of Holiday Rush with Workers in Short Supply] 

What can we do? Well, it’s probably too late to execute any major technological changes, and you are going into this with what you have. But I urge you, when the dust is still settling, it is time to consider your carrier options and improve your operational intelligence. Have options for carriers, have flexibility built into your Enterprise Software Stack (ESS), and make sure you have the ability to know what is impacting your costs in time to still do something about it.

How to avoid another challenging peak season

At ProShip, planning for the peak holiday shopping season and optimizing your transportation strategy to support it isn’t an event, it is a process, and it never stops. When one peak ends, it’s time to start planning for the next. It’s clichéd, and I hate to use it, but it’s true. Fail to plan, plan to fail. 

[Watch On-Demand] Future-Proofing Your Parcel Shipping Blueprint: An End-of-Year Q&A Panel