Stocking up for Black Friday? Is your 3PL Prepared?

Black Friday 2021 – Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series on Black Friday 2021, we’ve looked at consumer behaviour and retailers’ attitudes in this year of disruption and unpredictability. Now we turn our attention to a vital cog in the Black Friday wheel – the third party logistics partner.

Predicting consumer behaviour and preparing your own retail strategy are only part of the challenge when it comes to Black Friday. Without a 3pl who is prepared to respond to the temporary spike in demand with equal vigour, any plans you make will be dead in the water.

Let’s look at the constraints affecting fulfilment and logistics right now and how we’ve been preparing for Black Friday at ILG.

Constraints on fulfilment and logistics

The same disruptions that have affected consumer and retail confidence have been keenly felt in logistics. The pandemic, Brexit and their knock-on effects in Europe and across the world have put considerable strain on UK 3pls.

Brexit has created a labour shortage, which has made warehouse staff and delivery drivers harder to come by than before. Black Friday brings a spike in demand that needs a corresponding spike in staffing. Can your 3pl be confident of securing the temporary staff they need to meet the sudden rise and then fall in demand?

Black Friday has tended to start earlier and earlier in previous years. So when is the right time to start gearing up? Go too early and staff will be standing idle. Leave it too late and the demand will swamp you. How has your 3pl been gearing up for Black Friday? Do they have everything in place to fulfil your Black Friday offers?

And then there’s the supply chain. Shipping delays and the driver shortage have put timely deliveries in serious doubt. What is your 3pl doing to mitigate potential supply problems and help you manage stock flow and customer expectations?

ILG’s preparations for Black Friday

Over the years, we have established a reputation as an employer that takes care of its employees. By instilling a culture of collective responsibility and teamwork, together with fair pay and career development opportunities, we make sure ILG is a company that people want to work for. As a result, we have been able to recruit 300 additional staff for the peak period.

Managing employee shift patterns is key to keeping operations efficient and responding to peaks and troughs in demand. We have established round-the-clock shift patterns that enable us to keep working 24/7 in order to meet demand.

Stocking up in preparation for Black Friday has needed to happen earlier this year because of the delays and uncertainties over deliveries, and that means having the warehouse space to handle the increase in stock levels. This year we opened our biggest facility yet, and our first warehouse outside the South East, ILG Brackmills in Northampton. This not only increases our ability to scale up in line with our customer’s requirements but also delivers major advantages in speed and efficiency.

Keeping all channels open

When it’s running at full capacity our Brackmills facility will be able to process 35,000 orders per day. The Midlands location also enables us to extend our carrier times by four hours from 6pm to 10pm.

For customers selling to the EU, we also opened a warehouse in Wroclaw, Poland. This facility enables UK retailers to bypass the administrative burden and delays created by Brexit, as well as placing stock much closer to the major European market of Germany and cutting delivery times.

We haven’t just been gearing up our services in a bubble, though. The most important thing you need your 3pl to do is talk to you. We’ve been meeting our customers to discuss their plans for the Black Friday peak and offer advice on how they can prepare. Tactics include stretching out the sales period to give supply a better chance to meet demand, simplifying packaging to speed up the packing process, withdrawing the promise of express deliveries and giving us their peak period forecasts as early as possible.

Black Friday may well be a scaled-down event this year but that means the opportunity increases for retailers that do take part. By planning carefully and making sure your partners are as prepared as you are, you could make this Black Friday a big one after all.

If you would like to talk to us about streamlining your peak periods, please call ILG on
0844 264 8000.

Read Part 1: Peak or Trough? Why Customer Behaviour is So Hard to Predict This Year

Read Part 2: Twist or Stick? How Retailers Are Approaching Black Friday Amid Huge Market Uncertainty

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