Peak season is around the corner and that means Landmark Global will deliver a huge number of parcels to online shoppers in Europe and beyond. Jan Van Roey, senior vice-president for Europe and UK, explains how all those parcels make it to shoppers’ doorstep.
Peak season – the steep increase in e-commerce sales that begins with Black Friday and ends almost three months later with the Chinese New Year – is a busy time for Landmark Global, a bpost company. “It’s truly all hands on deck during this period,” says Jan Van Roey, Landmark Global’s senior vice-president for Europe and UK. “Every day, we organize calls and check-ins so we can adjust our planning if and where necessary. Where do we need extra manpower? Where do we need to create additional capacity? And if issues arise, we immediately solve them.”
To manage the millions of parcels ordered during this season, preparation on all sides is key. “Peak season is something both e-tailers and logistical companies need to plan long in advance,” says Van Roey, adding that communication and clear agreements are key in this process. “If you start preparing in October, you’re too late.”
Predicting the unpredictable
According to Van Roey, one of the major difficulties with peak season in a B2C context is the difficulty of accurately predicting how many online purchases consumers will make during this holiday period. “That’s why everything starts with our clients’ forecasts. We try to estimate the parcel volumes we’ll receive by working with our clients as closely as possible,” he explains. “What volumes are they expecting based on last year’s sales?”
Based on these client forecasts, the bpost subsidiary draws up scenarios with estimated lower and upper limits. “Those forecasts allow us to determine how many extra workers and extra warehouse space we will need and to make corresponding arrangements,” he notes.
Because forecasting is one thing, you also need to be able to manage the weeks-long sales boom, Van Roey adds. “You have to realize that the volume of parcels we deliver increases by 100% during this period. This means you also need double the amount of normal warehouse space to be able to process all those parcels. But – and this probably goes without saying – you can’t just double the square footage of your warehouse overnight.”
Extra space, extra hands
Instead, Landmark Global relies on a range of strategies to adjust to peak season demands in an agile way. In the UK, for instance, the company hires an extra warehouse from September until January to be able to process the increased e-commerce parcel volumes, while in Belgium marquee tents are put up to obtain hundreds of thousands of additional square footage in warehouse space.
Of course, Van Roey notes, you also need extra hands to pick up, scan and sort all those extra parcels. “It’s why we make arrangements with temp agencies as early as August to ensure we have enough extra workers,” he says, adding that the Landmark Global subsidiary Radial is known to hire 10,000 extra temp workers in the US for the month of December. “Another thing we often do is add weekend shifts on top of the usual weekday shifts. Or, we’ll add extra teams, which allows us to schedule extra shifts.”
A key advantage
Postal operators are almost always a country’s largest logistical provider and one of its biggest employers. And that gives Landmark Global a crucial leg-up over other delivery operators during peak season, Van Roey observes. “Because it means we’re incredibly skilled at managing large parcel volumes – it’s what we do year-round. We also have postal customs clearance, which is faster and less cumbersome than commercial clearance. This allows us to get massive volumes of parcels through customs day in, day out.”
The bpost company is also able to rely on an extensive network of postal operators in other countries and trusted partners to get parcels to shoppers around the world. “Because we have worked with these airline companies and trucking companies for years, we can easily and quickly schedule in extra flights and cargo capacity when needed,” he continues. “They give us priority during peak season, much like we give priority to those e-retailers with whom we work year-round.”
Are you looking for a partner to deliver your parcels during peak season? Thanks to our extensive experience with this busy holiday season, you can rely on us to get your parcels to shoppers on time. Get in touch to learn what Landmark Global can do for your business.