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Forward planning - How to best prepare your company for peak periods
By Sam Taylor, Head of Fulfilment Client Services, ILG
Last year’s peak November sales period was our busiest ever at ILG – by some considerable margin – and feedback gathered from our client relationship programme shows that it was a successful period for our customers too.
Black Friday saw the most orders dispatched in ILG History, with 22,680 shipped across our 10 sites, up from 9,434 in 2018 – a 140% increase. But the whole Black Friday week saw huge increases in volumes. The Saturday, for example, saw a 156% year on year rise in orders dispatched, from 6,889 to 17,610.
The fact that we were able to manage this rise in volume was essentially down to two things: good communication between us and our clients so we had timely projections of expected volume surges; and the increased capacity afforded by our expansion into two new sites in the first half of 2019.
Experience has taught us the importance of asking our customers to provide us with their sales projections as early as possible, especially if they have any activity coming up that may increase orders, such as an offer or a new product launch. This enables us to marshal our resources in-house and make sure we have the staff and resources where we need them in order to meet the increases in demand.
As a result, we can avoid unnecessary delays in fulfilling orders, which means more satisfied shoppers and less cost to our customers. One of the many advantages of outsourcing to a 3PL such as ILG is that it takes away the stress of managing operational staff during peak periods, allowing you to focus on generating sales. Providing forecasts to your 3PL as early as possible allows your provider to resource up in good time and be ahead of the curve.
New sites in Egham and Northampton
In the first quarter of 2019, we opened up in a facility in Egham, near Heathrow Airport, working in a site previously occupied by our parent company Yusen Logistics. This was followed by the opening of our first shared facility, Grange Park 1 in Northampton. We plan further expansion throughout 2020 to ensure we are best placed to support the growth of both new and existing clients.
The figures above show that the seven-day period around Black Friday, from the preceding Wednesday right into the following week, is now without doubt the peak shopping period of the year, having usurped the traditional December pre-Christmas rush and even the Boxing Day sales. They also show that we, in partnership with our customers, have built the capacity and knowhow to handle the extra volume without unnecessary delays or hiccups.
The same principle applies at any time of year: giving your 3PL early warning of any expected spikes in order volumes. We find that the more notice the better, as it gives us the time to staff up and shuffle our resources so we can take the extra demand in our stride. That’s why we place such value on our relationship with customers. November has shown that by working closely and maintaining an open dialogue, together we can handle anything.