Planning Your Peak – A Q&A With Operations Director Craig Sandall

How have changes in shoppers’ behaviour affected peak planning?

The peak period is starting to spread out a little more. Retailers have done a lot of work over the last couple of years to try and encourage consumers to make those big-ticket purchases they previously saved until the Black Friday weekend a little sooner. You see more and more people now offering sales throughout the month of November, with price promises and so on. Don’t get me wrong, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still massive days for retailers and customers alike, but by offering these types of incentives people are prepared to commit to purchases earlier, which helps with operational volumes.

What are the challenges of working with multiple carrier partners over peak?

For me, you have to take your forecasting seriously, and make sure you are engaging your carrier partners as early as possible. It tends to be the simple things that you need to keep on top of, like ensuring you have a good flow of consumables from your carriers to present the work in. Everyone is busy during this period so anything you can do to help each other is always appreciated.

How do you manage staffing levels over peak?

We use agency staff during the peak period to support our full-time employees. We usually start increasing our headcount gradually from September onwards to allow us to go through the correct training and have everyone up to speed for when it really matters. You have to work with the agencies on what you think you will need and what your plans are so that they’re on the same page.

How do you see customer delivery expectations changing?

Well, Amazon have been leading the way with delivery services for a while now and are closing the window more and more. There has been research recently though that stated over 70% of customers are happy with a 3-5 day delivery timeframe. I feel like there are multiple factors affecting a customer’s expectations; “Where do I live? Do I want to pay for express shipping? It may be quick, but do they offer free returns? Am I happy to wait for a bargain?” It’s up to the retailer to ensure that they are able to offer a variety of products and services, only the really big retailers will be able to try to be everything to everyone. I believe customers understand that and order through the appropriate retailer that matches their expectations.

Does the number of channels you work with have an impact on your business over peak?

We try to be as comprehensive as we can be when looking at the celebrations happening in each country and making sure we have the right promotions running to make the most of these periods. Once you have all that in place, it’s down to how well you can manage your stocks and stock updates to various channels from then on out. This could be through ring-fencing stock, increasing the stock buffers or just sending your stock profile to sales channels more frequently.