How To Set Up Your Retail Supply Chain for Peak Season Success


In retail, peak season is like a sprint, and to win the race, your supply chain must be finely tuned for maximum visibility, efficiency and profitability.

Peak season profits are the culmination of meticulous planning, strategic execution, and lots of hard work behind the scenes.  

With the holiday season fast approaching, this article uncovers how supply chain visibility can make or break your brand's peak season performance. 

Here’s the top 4 peak season pitfalls (and our expert insights on avoiding them).

Key Takeaways

  1. Visibility powers productivity. 
  2. Harness digital platforms. 
  3. Get accurate with your data.
  4. Use PO management tools.
  5. Share shipment statuses with your team.

Retail Realities: What's at Stake

Today's retail landscape is nothing short of a battleground, leaving in its wake some sobering statistics.

Customers are spending less, but businesses are paying more for shipping, rates, and raw materials amid high inflation. Fierce competition leaves no room for complacency. The need for crystal-clear operational insights has never been more critical.

Admin Fatigue 

Frankensystems are created over time by the need to collect and process data. 

In the beginning, a spreadsheet might have been all you needed to get the job done. But as your business grew, so did the list of tools and processes you use to manage your operations. Now, this patchwork solution has become one of your biggest headaches, causing admin fatigue while draining your finances. 

So how can you tell if your frankensystem is holding you back?

  1. You can’t tell if your data is accurate or not.
  2. You have to check multiple platforms to have visibility on your operations. 
  3. You’re wasting time gathering data for reporting.
  4. Your staff members are fed up with having to learn multiple platforms.
  5. You're spending more on technical upskilling, maintenance, repairs, and updates.

Now you're knee-deep in spreadsheets, sifting through a barrage of emails, and juggling a myriad of disjointed tools just to keep your supply chain on track. The result? Exhaustion, frustration, and a constant fear of something slipping through the cracks.

Our Advice

Harness Digital Platforms. 

McKinsey & Company estimates that a whopping 73% of supply chain functions still rely on spreadsheets.

Sure, they'll do the job, but these data integration shortcuts are inefficient, drain your budget, and can hit your bottom line hard.

In a world where speed, accuracy, and real-time visibility are paramount, utilizing digital platforms is not just a choice, but a necessity for businesses looking to stay competitive and meet the ever-increasing demands of customers. 

Digital platforms simplify decision-making by consolidating the data you need into a single location.

TPM TV. "Episodes of exclusive TPM content". March 3rd 2023.

Being Blindsided

When you can’t see what's happening at every stage of your supply chain, you're left vulnerable to unexpected disruptions, delays, and disappointments. 

And when chaos unfolds, fingers start pointing in every direction. Your sales team blames procurement, procurement points fingers at the logistics team, and the blame game intensifies. Meanwhile, your customers are left frustrated and disappointed. Orders go unfulfilled, deliveries are delayed, and your reputation takes a hit.

With no visibility of the weak links in your supply chain, you're left in the dark, unable to make informed decisions to salvage the situation. 

The opaque nature of global freight management has historically taken control away from the shipper, making it difficult to track performance and hold service providers accountable. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the data around cargo-ready dates. 

Our Advice 

Get Accurate with your Data.

Just as a captain wouldn't set sail without a compass, a logistics manager shouldn’t navigate operations without accurate data. If you can’t accurately track your performance, you're sailing blind, unable to gauge direction or progress.

The key to accuracy is redundancy. When multiple sources converge on the same truth, you can trust in the reliability of your data. We harness data from multiple partner sources, to ensure our platform offers consistently reliable insights into the status of your supply chain. 

We designed our in-app analytics feature to be fully customisable, so you can translate real-time shipping and transaction data into actionable supply chain insights. 

Inventory and Space Management 

“Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time.” - Tom Peters.

In a perfect world, managing your stock levels would be straightforward. But global supply chain disruption and disconnected trade systems ensure it's just not that easy for shippers to know what's arriving and when.

To make the most out of peak season, you need the right products, in the right places at the right time.  Your storerooms are stacked to the brim with products, and you've rented additional warehouse space to accommodate the influx of inventory. But without Purchase Order visibility, you’re managing your inventory with a blindfold on. 

You risk overstocking certain items while understocking others, leading to missed sales opportunities or increased carrying costs. 

Our Advice 

Po Management 

Ask the right questions and you’re already halfway to the solution. But, how do you know what questions to ask when you can’t get a clear picture of the problem itself?

That’s why we teamed up with Australian brands to craft a PO management tool that tackles visibility gaps in their supply chain, so we can give you the answers that matter most, like: 

  • Were my PO’s ready when they were supposed to be? 
  • How can we prevent delays? 
  • Will my shipment be on time? If not, why not?
  • Are some shippers more reliable than others? 
  • What is the carbon cost of one shipping line over another? 

Efficient logistics allows leaders to navigate complex challenges, optimize operations, and outperform the competition. Get the information you need earlier, so you can make informed decisions.

Sub-par Service

From executives and department heads to your customers, everyone has high expectations during peak seasons. 

So when your supply chain remains unseen,  friction begins to ripple amongst your internal stakeholders.

  • Department heads, who are are eager to optimise inventory, find themselves in the dark about what's in stock and what's moving off the shelves. 
  • Executives, with their eyes on profitability, can't make informed decisions about resource allocation or strategic adjustments. 
  • And your employees, striving to provide top-notch customer service, are left scrambling to answer customer inquiries without access to real-time order and delivery data.

Lack of visibility doesn't just harm your team morale and immediate profitability; it can have lasting repercussions, eroding customer trust and loyalty, which are hard-won and easily lost in today's competitive retail landscape. 

Unforeseen disruptions can result in delayed shipments and out-of-stock items, tarnishing your brand's reputation and driving potential loyal customers into the arms of competitors. 

Our Advice 

Shareable Shipments 

Reduce the administrative burden of responding to cargo status inquiries with our shareable shipments tool, which brings clients and internal teams like marketing and finance into the loop on shipment status. 

With an easy share link, you can give your internal teams and customers peace of mind with accurate cargo tracking and ETAs. By allowing stakeholders to stay informed without revealing sensitive information, you bridge the visibility gap without the need for extra emails or phone calls. 

In Summary

Visibility powers productivity. 

McKinsey & Company. 2021. Supply-chain resilience: Is there a holy grail?.

By staying one step ahead, acquainted with the challenges and risks that permeate the logistics landscape, you can fortify your business.

So if you're spending hours:

🔗 chasing information in lengthy email chains,

⚠️ managing data inconsistencies,

📉 and facing delays due to bottlenecks in critical decisions, 

It’s time to address your supply chain visibility.

Economic and market factors are volatile, but your relationship with your forwarder should not be. In times of crisis, whether it's a shipping delay, customs issue, or unexpected disruption, having an team that goes the extra mile to find you a solution makes all the difference. 

Giving Australian brands a competitive edge through their supply chain is our specialty. 

To see the difference Explorate can make to your operations, get in touch to see a live demo of how our app gives you unrivalled visibility down to the container.


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