Hermes’ Joanne Morley reflects on the importance of early planning as retailers get stuck in to their Christmas strategies.

Like me, I know that legions of people sat in front of their televisions share a collective sigh each October when the first of the festive-themed adverts hits their screens, often met with comments such as: “They start earlier every year, don’t they?”

The peak season is the most important part of the retail industry calendar, and to maximise efficiency and profitability during this period of intense activity requires meticulous planning across an entire organisation.

While we have been able to bask in an extra hour of daylight this week, full of the vigour of spring, enthusiastic retailers up and down the country are already working hard towards a successful Christmas 2016.

At Hermes we consider delivery an extension of the overall brand experience, and therefore we have a responsibility to support the retail industry by providing exceptional levels of service during its busiest periods. Last year, we processed 30.3 million parcels during December alone, representing a year-on-year rise of 24%. In fact, we handled more than 1 million parcels in a single night on 22 occasions in the lead up to Christmas, while our service levels increased across the board.

Our success can be attributed to the hard work and dedication of our peak planning and delivery team, which came together for the first time in 2015 during a warm, sunny day in Warrington last April – exactly one year ago.

Enthusiastic retailers up and down the country are already working hard towards a successful Christmas 2016

The team was headed up by our forecasting and planning manager, while our head of client development and product acted as the vital cog between our clients and the internal team. The head of resources provided the manpower, while several of our expert representatives from the operations team kept everything on track.

The Warrington session, dubbed our 'implementation launch day', involved each member of the team joining forces to evaluate the previous peak, identify any lessons learnt, and to establish how they would plan and communicate during the process. The team members worked together to outline a number of stage one objectives, including early planning, increase in network capacity, client communication, highlighting potential risks and outlining contingency plans.

As a result, the team was able to build a task list and confirm workstreams with allocated owners. A project tracker was then created and housed on a shared network drive so each member could update progress and completed tasks. This project tracker provided the team with complete visibility of the peak planning process, upcoming deadlines and updates on when members from different disciplines would need to liaise on different tasks. Not bad for a day’s work.

The implementation launch day provided a foundation for different departments across the entire business to kick-start their own plans for peak, ensuring we were all signing from the very same hymn sheet. This year’s session will be taking place over the coming days and I look forward to providing the readers of this blog with real-time updates during 2016 as the peak planning and delivery team works towards another successful Christmas.

  •  Joanne Morley is head of marketing at Hermes