Labor Day is around the corner, and retailers are busy planning their holiday promotions, stocking displays and end caps with chicken, beef, bottled beverages and other barbecue fare. A long-standing strategy in retail, offering holiday discounts is a surefire way to increase foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores and compete with online sellers. Stores brimming with time-sensitive products are a powerful draw, offering just-in-time convenience for shoppers who can’t wait for two-day shipping.

For suppliers, promotional loads are challenging to coordinate, but can bring big payoffs if executed well.  When transportation windows are tight, shippers must plan extensively with logistical precision, which includes understanding a retailer’s specific systems, delivery compliance metrics, fill rates, inventory management, and even corporate cultures. The stakes are high because retailers will spend a considerable amount of money to advertise in-store promotions, and if products don’t arrive on time, consumers may take their business elsewhere. Without knowledgeable planning, such delivery failures lead to big losses for manufacturers in short-term fines and, ultimately, long-term relationships (Inbound Logistics).

Choose Partners Wisely

Partnering with reliable carriers is critical for success with promotional projects and seasonal surges. Look for carriers that have solid experience in just-in-time shipping, and single-day and multi-point rollouts, as well as a good on-time record. Carrier technologies should include the latest tracking capabilities, too, making your shipments transparent. This is especially important now that Walmart has instituted 75 percent “On-Time, In-Full” delivery standards, which will jump to 95 percent next year, and which other retailers are likely to adopt once Walmart works out the kinks (YRC).

When vetting carriers to handle promotional loads, be sure to look for:

  1. Specific, Proven Skills. Ideally, choose a carrier with more than five years of experience delivering time-sensitive shipments into big box retailers and across complex supply chains.
  2. Surge Capacity. Ensure that you have enough carriers in your network to handle seasonal surges.  A 3PL can help supplement your network by providing more flexible, scalable capacity.
  3. State-of-the-Art Tracking Technology. Look for real-time GPS tracking, status updates, exception management, and streamlined integration with your systems. Clear visibility into your supply chain helps you stave off problems early.
  4. Strong Customer Support. Demand 24/7 access to customer service and well-trained personnel.

JIT Solutions that Work

The right 3PL can offer shippers advantages when planning for complex seasonal rollouts and time-critical surges. Recently, Capstone worked with a multi-national food & beverage shipper that was suffering from plant shutdowns when unreliable carriers failed to deliver. Implementing JIT solutions, Capstone helped this $60 billion manufacturer optimize its supply chain to ensure zero production or customer-delivery disruptions during peak times.