Forecasting failures & poor operations planning could add to Black Friday supply chain pressures


With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to put a squeeze on the budgets of British shoppers, this year’s Black Friday is likely to see some eye-catching discounts as retailers attempt to kick start a positive run-up to the Christmas period.

But with the spectre of inflation still haunting the UK economy, retail industry watchers predict that cash-strapped consumers will take a more selective and discerning approach to their Black Friday shopping this year.

Charlie Walker, Head of Sales at Berkshire-based fulfillment specialists, Walker Logistics, says that the difficult economic conditions have made pre-Black Friday demand forecasting and operations planning more difficult than usual and, as a result, some retailers might find themselves nursing a Black Friday order fulfilment headache.

Charlie Walker says: “To make accurate predictions, standard approaches to forecasting typically require years of data and consistent patterns and trends. The impact of the pandemic followed by the difficult economic situation has made forecasting events such as Black Friday more uncertain than ever. In turn this make it more difficult for a retailer’s in-house warehouse team or third-party logistics (3PL) fulfillment partner to gear up operations in readiness for the Black Friday peak.

“For example, it is likely that additional personnel will be required in the warehouse but if demand has been underestimated extra staff might have to be introduced at the last moment. These workers will probably be undertrained and therefore likely to make mistakes that could prove costly to the business.”

He adds: “To encourage internet shoppers to hit the ‘Buy Now’ button many retailers are planning incentives such as free shipping to complement a host of tempting deals that will be exclusively available online. This means e-commerce fulfilment operations will inevitably come under strain as order throughput numbers spike and retailers that have underestimated the market’s requirement run the risk of customers not getting the products they want when they want them.

“Of course, accurate forecasting can be a challenge, which is why Walker Logistics’ clients benefit from the input and guidance of an experienced personal account manager. They are on-hand every day to lend support where required and offer any relevant advice that they feel may be beneficial to the retailer’s business.”

Black Friday is a concept imported from the US where, since the early 2000s, it has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Enthusiastically embraced by bargain-loving British consumers, it is now firmly established as one of the biggest shopping days in the UK retail calendar. Black Friday 2023 takes place on November 24th.