Be kind to your suppliers over Black Friday

Butter up your suppliers and be kind to your logistics partners in the run up to Black Friday, is the advice given by retailers. Blog by Caroline Baldwin.

As we approach the most complicated date on the retail calendar – Black Friday – the UK retail industry is inundated with “top tips” on how to avoid the utter failure that was last year’s Black Friday.
As a journalist, I have been receiving press releases about how to strengthen your systems in preparation for Black Friday from as early as January.

I was at an event in London this week, where a panel of prominent UK retailers discussed the challenges of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The event was under Chatham House Rules meaning Essential Retail cannot attribute any quotes – unsurprisingly when one of the UK’s largest retailers was brutally honest about how they were completely unprepared for the demand on their systems last year.

But the message that stood out for me amid the guidance to strengthen your IT systems and ensuring correct pricings, was the advice to be nice to your third party suppliers and logistics companies.

When all hell breaks loose on 27 November and your website needs more capacity or you need to send more parcels than stated in your original delivery quota – it’s the retail suppliers and logistics companies who will be able to save you, which they might be willing to do – if you’ve been nice to them throughout the year.

And don’t forget: Amazon is King. In a meeting with international delivery solutions firm, wnDirect, earlier this week, the company said many other delivery and courier companies always prioritise eCommerce giant Amazon over traditional retailers. Meaning if even more savvy consumers shop over Black Friday 2015, the technology behemoth is likely to have all of its parcels delivered on time, leaving other retailers out in the cold.

Another fulfilment company told me a few months ago that carriers cannot continue to take the blame for delivery problems and retailers should set more realistic expectations to their customers, rather than shaving off hours from the next-day delivery cut off.

It is clear suppliers and logistics companies alike are disgruntled and under a lot of strain, and if on Black Friday retailers want to extend their delivery forecasts by 25%, there is only so much wiggle room. Retailers have had decades to predict Christmas sales, but the ambiguity around Black Friday is what makes this sales period frustrating for retailers and their partners, but exciting to watch and write about as a journalist.

So if there was ever a time to send a bottle of whisky and a hand written note to your favourite suppliers and fulfilment firms, now might be your last chance.

And what goes around, comes around – so don’t be stingy when it comes to the good stuff.

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