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’d finish purchasing most of my gifts before Thanksgiving week and hold off on the items I was very certain would 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 2023 Holiday to Reach Record Spending Levels

Every year, this amazing machine that is the American (and global) supply chain participates in its own version of the Superbowl: Holiday Peak Shipping Season. When it’s all over, there are winners and there are losers. And collectively, we take a deep breath and start our post-mortems, vowing not to repeat the same mistakes moving forward.

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, but we had to get creative and adapt accordingly.

In January, we took a moment to reflect on and feel proud of our accomplishments, and all the unprecedented records we broke were quite a feat. As we headed full speed into February, it seemed like normalcy was just around the corner.

What to expect this peak shipping season

Here we are today, I wrapped up my holiday shopping early because I wanted to be prepared for whatever might happen. Anyone claiming to know is simply making it up, thinking wishfully, or in a different industry. Nevertheless, there are a couple of things we can confidently predict.

  1. It’s going to cost more than we planned with inflation hitting fuel so hard. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to improve before before peak is over. [2024 General Rate Increases Exposed]
  1. Labor issues will affect operations across the board, which is easy to predict because it’s happened before and is expected 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] Expert Panel: What is Going On? What It Really Takes to Thrive in Parcel Pandemonium