Retailers and carriers should already be into their peak planning, and need to understand it now starts earlier than ever before, says Hermes sales and marketing director Mark Pettit

If you’re reading this blog at your desk, take a second to scan the office floor and I’m sure you’ll notice that it is significantly quieter than normal.

With the school holidays in full swing, many workers have swapped their spreadsheets for sun cream to enjoy a week or more relaxing on the beach. It might be the height of summer, but for retailers and carriers alike, Christmas is already taking centre stage as planning continues ahead of the peak season.

Last winter, Black Friday and Cyber Monday took everybody by surprise. It was the first year that UK consumers truly bought into the idea.

According to a report by the IMRG, UK retail websites received a combined total of 181 million visits on Black Friday alone, and an estimated £810m was spent online.

Meanwhile, Amazon declared that Black Friday 2014 was its busiest day ever, with more than 5.5 million items ordered – or approximately 64 items per second. Retailers and their supply chain partners certainly expected increased activity, but it was hard to predict to what scale. This year the industry as a whole has a clearer picture of what to expect, providing ample opportunity to fully prepare in advance.

To avoid the negative headlines of last year, carriers must ensure they take on board two key considerations during the planning process. First of all, the growing popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday means that the peak season now stretches back a lot further than in years gone by.

As a result, carriers must guarantee they have the necessary infrastructure in place to cope with growing volumes over longer periods. Secondly, carriers and retailers must work more closely together to execute an effective forecasting framework to ensure increasing volumes can be fulfilled efficiently.

At Hermes, we are currently finalising plans that will help retailers to enjoy their most successful peak season to date. Our planning for peak 2015 began as soon as peak 2014 drew to a close, and we are confident we will deliver all of the forecasted volumes on time.

In preparation, we have significantly strengthened our network and infrastructure this year. This includes the addition of another 125 sub depots, as well as increasing the number of scanners and handheld terminals across the business.

Our extensive courier network will also be supplemented with a further 2,500 employees for the peak season. We have also made a seven-figure investment at one of our major hubs and I look forward to sharing more information on that with readers of this blog over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, our client managers are also working alongside our retail clients to finalise plans ahead of the peak season by analysing forecasted volumes and confirming collection schedules. In addition, representatives from Hermes’ customer service team will again be stationed at clients’ warehouses to deal exclusively with any enquiries and to assist on-site teams. This has previously proved to be a very effective initiative and I’m sure our team will once again be earning positive reviews from our clients.

To effectively manage increased volumes during the peak season, the industry must continue to streamline its processes and prioritise innovation in order to increase proficiency. The retail sector has proven to be the very best at doing this and therefore carriers must replicate that dedication to ensure the end consumer receives exceptional levels of service during the busiest time of the year.

  • Mark Pettit is sales and marketing director at Hermes