With the gradual easing of Covid restrictions, the UK high street enjoyed an increase in retail sales from April to June, making it the best three months on record, British Retail Consortium figures indicate. Sales in the period rose 28.4% from a year ago and were up 10.4% from 2019.
Conversely, online retail sales fell by -9.1% Year-on-Year in May, but this is against a very high May 2020 growth of +61.0. So, whilst a drop in sales may sound alarming, spend online remains strong. Volumes are up +46% when compared against May 2019. It will be interesting to see how the balance between high street and online retail plays out over the summer and into Christmas.
How will shoppers approach their seasonal and Black Friday purchases? They may seem far away right now, but the reality is that businesses only have a few remaining months to ensure they are well prepared for the frenzied buying that Black Friday and Christmas creates.
Advanced planning is essential if you are to succeed in meeting increased demand. Do not leave your preparations until the last minute – you may regret it later.
Below are a few short-term solutions to help your business prepare for increased demand.
Train your team for success
Training is essential to ensuring that your picking, packing and goods out team can operate smoothly during increased demand.
You want your products to reach the customer undamaged and on time. So give your packing team clear instructions on what packaging to use for each SKU. This sounds simple but it makes a big difference. It will help reduce over (and under) packing. It will also reduce your packaging costs as the right amount will be used each time.
Consider running best practice workshops and implementing shadow boards to help packers select the right size of box. You can also support them with guides and posters to imbed your processes. This will help guarantee that all your products are packed to the same high standard.
Organise for speed
How organised is your layout? Does it compliment the speedy picking and packing of goods?
Packaging solutions such as temporary pick bins help to create a more efficient pick and pack area. This reduces pick times, maximises space and provides additional storage. The addition of trolleys and totes also aids efficiency, supporting the picking of multiple orders simultaneously.
Packing benches should be well organised to provide your packers easy access to all the packaging materials they need. Using longer rolls or larger packs of packaging items means that you need to replenish less often. Hoppers, fitted with fill sensors, keep a constant stream of air pillows to hand as the inflater will run automatically as stocks fall below the specified level.
Reduce packing time
Semi-automated systems can be a low-cost way to quickly speed up the packing process. A great example of this is switching to a digital gummed paper dispenser (also known as water-activated tape) which cuts to a pre-programmed length automatically and can reduce the packing time significantly.
A simple switch to crash-lock base boxes and self-seal strips can reduce packing time dramatically. In fact, when compared to a standard 0201 carton, it can reduce it by up to 60%, as you are removing the need to tape. This can significantly speed up fulfilment. Read more here.
You can of course go fully automated. This is a much longer term commitment, but it will revolutionise your fulfilment operation.
Auto-boxing machines measure your products and adjust the size of the box to ensure the best fit. This helps make sure you are using the right amount of packaging to protect your products in transport. The machine also folds the box and seals the lid, which greatly speeds up your packaging line.
Automated bagging machines work in a similar way to auto boxing solutions. They automatically place products inside custom bags, which are then cut to size for optimal fit. This allows multi-sized products to be despatched efficiently, with minimal labour and time constraints.
At Macfarlane Packaging, our packaging experts are close at hand to help you ensure your packaging operation is always ready for demand fluctuations.
Contact us today to discuss your requirements.