2014 Holiday Season Contingency Planning for Small Business Internet Retailers

Moving Boxes on a red dolly With Fragile StickersThroughout the month, we have been discussing how small businesses, such as Internet retailers and e-commerce firms, should be planning right now for the 2014 holiday season. When we started this series, Christmas was 200 days away. We’re now down to 183.

That is precious time ticking away and the final piece to this planning puzzle is contingency planning – thinking through the “what ifs,” the unexpected obstacles, the not-so-fun surprises that inevitably happen.

What if the West Coast Ports Experience a Strike?

This what if, if it happens, will not necessarily be unexpected. For weeks now, a possible port strike has loomed and, as of today, there is still no resolution in the contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association with less than a week left on their current contract. Just yesterday, Bloomberg News reported that “business groups are urging the longshoremen and their employers to avoid a dispute that could cripple ports along the West Coast and affect billions of dollars in commerce.”

Even a short strike will back up ports and logistics but a prolonged strike will have a huge impact on the 2014 holiday season. The contingency plan here lies on the East Coast. If you can bring your goods in through Miami, New York or Charleston, you can avoid this impending mess.

What if Your Manufacturer or a Supplier has a problem?

Last week, we advised that such supply chain oversight as keeping in close contact with your manufacturer and any product component suppliers will help ensure their ability to handle your orders ahead of the holiday season. Consider this, if either are domestic and they are relying on raw materials that have to come in through the West Coast, they too will be impacted by a strike if it occurs. Discuss this possibility with them and develop contingency plans such as determining alternate shipping routes or identifying domestic suppliers of the materials. You should also consider any other potential “what ifs” associated with your manufacturer and suppliers.

What if Your Warehouse Provider Runs Out of Space?

Do you know how much excess storage space your warehouse provider expects to have on hand this fall as all of their clients ramp up inventory ahead of the holiday season? If they are at or near capacity, you might want to consider a backup warehouse to handle any overflow. And better to identify that provider now and have your contingency in place than to wait until September or later only to find, there is no space for your goods.

Another warehouse provider “what if” to think about is any special product kitting or assembly or special packaging that needs to occur for holiday products. Make sure your warehouse provider is ready and able to handle these needs and have a back up provider identified in case of any issues.

What if, What if, What if…

These are just a few of the what ifs that could occur and upset your plans for a successful 2014 holiday sales season. You can’t necessarily predict the what ifs but you absolutely can and should have a contingency plan for the most likely risk scenarios you face based on your geographic location, business type and supply chain dependencies.

Happy Holidays ornamentWishing all our small business clients and their peers a happy holiday season from Distribution Direct because we know the success of that season depends on what happens this summer.