Christmas in July? Preparing for peak season as a 3PL

By Rob Hodgson, WMS and E-commerce Fulfilment Expert

Peak season is an interesting time for 3PLs. If you have the capacity and ability to meet demands, this is a time where you can make your name and attract more online sellers seeking a 3PL solution.


While we can never predict the volumes of e-commerce orders, there is every indication that 2021 will be a ‘bumper season’ for sales. The lifting of lockdown restrictions means more spending on gifts, while the impact of changed shopping habits and a move to sole online purchase or omnichannel purchases may create a huge influx. Read the case study on how Littledart Fulfillment utilised Mintsoft to expand.


In 2020 at the peak Christmas period, independent retailers and local high streets picked up orders. This year, consumers are likely to continue to support smaller sellers, both online and offline. One platform supporting such sellers, Etsy, released their 2020 full-year results showing triple-digit growth and traffic up 100%.  The best prediction has been from Retail Economics, which forecasts that online will account for 26.1% of retail sales this year vs 28.1% in 2020.


While there will likely be more store purchases than 2020, back in 2020, Deloitte recorded that 49% of shoppers said they wouldn’t return to normal, pre-pandemic shopping habits until a COVID-19 vaccine is available. So while the vaccine rollout is happening at a lightning-fast pace, many may still find comfort in online shopping.  

When will peak trading start in 2021?

Peak season is product dependent, but many online sellers follow the larger brands and capitalise on promotions earlier and earlier. Christmas in July sounds bizarre, but in a survey from eHoliday Mood Survey from Shop.org and BizRate Research, nearly 40 per cent of Internet merchants plan to start promotions earlier, with more than 62 per cent beginning before November 5th. Black Friday (November 25th) has traditionally been seen as a starting point for peak, but the planned promotions for online sellers comes way before this.


More data backs this up – in 2020, according to Criteo, U.S. E-commerce sales were down 5 per cent year-over-year on Black Friday but in the weeks before were up 7%.


Whether it’s the promotions driving sales or a worry about supply and shipping, the result for the 3PL is the same – peak starts much sooner than ever.

Getting your 3PL prepared for peak trading

Most supply chain professionals are already well versed in contingency planning for the peak season. You are likely already employing proactive strategies and technologies to overcome capacity challenges, but are there any stones you may have left unturned?


It’s estimated that 40 – 50 per cent of revenue for the whole year is earned in this very short period, so it’s wise to create a strategy to reassure your customers and provide your team with all the tools they need to succeed.

1. Start creating open conversations now  

The ability to share data and information back to your customers through cloud platforms is useful during business as usual and critical during peak trading periods. By being able to plot what may be ahead and to both access and provide real-time visibility at the SKU level, inventory can be tracked, diverted, or reallocated as needed, supporting the end mile services and retailers alike.

You may need to schedule time with your customers to get a handle on their forecasted volumes and projections, so you can formulate new peak distribution strategies.

Let your customers know that by understanding what inventory is moving quickly and what is planned to go out over the peak season, you can start organising products and provide insight on any ageing inventory that could represent a selling opportunity.

Perhaps there are also tasks ahead that customers will reveal, such as new kitting requirements—getting as much information as you can puts you in a position of strength for the months ahead.

By using a tool such as Mintsoft, you will already be able to access on-demand access to information about the availability and location of inventory. With this, you can properly organise warehouse flow to provide more efficient picking access to top sellers and fast-moving SKUs during the peak season.

2. Try and couple your tech together now

The key to ultimate proficiency and streamlined fulfilment is to automate the entire ordering process as much as possible—from electronic data interchange to accurate reporting. If you and your customer are working on different systems, explain that this can cause delays.

Having an Order Management System (OMS) can help streamline operations by allowing for constant tracking and active monitoring of purchases and inventory levels across all available channels at every stage of the fulfilment process, rectifying any issues if they happen.

Mintsoft works perfectly for both 3PLs and online sellers, offering both a means of communication and perfect visibility of what lies ahead. With over 60 standard marketplace integrations and over 80 UK and worldwide courier integrations, it helps you get on top of your inventory with real-time stock visibility.

It might even replace the need to hire. While many businesses are already creating new temporary hires in picking and packing to meet demand, improved processes that make grabbing the right SKU, scanning, labelling and packing easier may reduce the volume of new hires needed drastically. If you are planning admin support, there may be a reduction there too. Mintsoft is designed to cut down your admin overheads and allows you to issue real time access to unlimited client users, with varying levels of access & reporting available. Clients have a host of information & features available to interact with at their fingertips without having to contact you manually.

3. Add extra value with rate information


69% of shoppers wouldn’t purchase from a brand again if they received an item late, but online sellers can easily get caught up in day-to-day operations and leave the last mile decisions until it’s too late. If you can, one of the best ways to add value is to help them rate shop and find the best delivery prices and options. You can advise on delivery cut-offs by carrier, which meets your customers’ shipping expectations, and impacts the end recipient and their overall experience.

In summary, the very best time to prepare for peak season is now. While there are multiple changes you can make to your processes and the tech that you use, it all starts with a conversation with your customers. Only from here can you make informed decisions and get clarity about what’s ahead for peak season!


If you’re interested in a demonstration of the Mintsoft OMS, contact us today.