In today’s e-commerce world, ordering something is as simple as a few clicks on a keyboard or phone. We then expect to see our package waiting at our door within a day or so. In detailing, we all would love to have that as the common scenario, but in reality, we have all experienced some type of shipping delay or backorder at some point. I recently wrote an article on “Product Inventory Management”, if you haven’t had a chance to read it, there are some great tips when ordering products. This article expands on that previous article with a focus on shipping delays. The majority of us have grown accustomed to the order today, here tomorrow experience, so let’s look into how this relates to the detailing world.
In my article “Product Inventory Management” I addressed the common use of “JIT” or “Just in Time” ordering. This is a very risky approach to keeping inventory at your shop. I recently had a fellow detailer tell me how he waited until the last minute to order his favorite coating applicators only to find that they were not in stock. He kicked himself because he saw them in stock weeks earlier but once they went on sale, they sold out. He asked me if I have ever encountered that, and I said to him”On applicators? no. I always keep stocked up. But I have run into things taking forever to be shipped.” This spurred a conversation about back orders, shipping delays, etc. During our conversation, I suggested my article to him as it addressed his waiting until the last minute approach. I later discovered that this is a regular occurrence for him, so here are some things to consider when you order next time or experience a delay.
Buffer Times and Coatings
Allow regular buffer times when placing orders to maintain your inventory. For example, if coatings are something you do often, keep a healthy stock of them at all times. Once you get close to half your stock, place your order to refill your inventory. In the event that they are out of stock or there is some type of unforeseen shipping delay, you would still have plenty to get you through for at least several weeks. Often a common issue with coatings as many installers do not keep a proper inventory where the “bottle to install” type approach often leads to problems. In regards to shipping, keep in mind that many of them are considered hazardous items that restrict shipping to ground only. This can oftentimes lead to shipping delays and hence the dreaded not here in time scenario.
Keep in mind, that there are several coating companies that are very small and do not have warehouses stocked full of product. Some of the boutique-type coatings tend to have backorder issues. I’ve seen this scenario play out many times over the years. Often, I’ve also seen shipping delays due to issues with customs once they get shipped overseas. So while an installer is anxiously waiting on his or her order, its being held at customs and could take longer than expected to be shipped.
Keep in mind that certain special events such as the SEMA Show, the majority of companies are usually there in full force representing their companies. For those companies that give their installers a heads up to place orders before SEMA, I salute you! Unfortunately, it never fails that someone “didn’t see the reminder” and here they are scrambling to get products during the SEMA Show to finish a project. Keep in mind that some companies in our industry are small and do not have the distribution or shipping capabilities of the larger companies. Most larger companies and distributors such as Detailed Image can fulfill orders during the week of the SEMA Show, but keep in mind that the smaller companies that ship to Detailed Image may not be able to be reached during that time. With the SEMA Show being the largest trade show on the calendar, its not surprising to see many companies go “all hands on deck” during that week. In fact, I’ve supported and helped a few companies over the years during SEMA due to the overwhelming crowds and staffing demands. This is important to remember for professionals as it is always best to keep stocked prior to events such as this and especially after, as it takes time for companies to get back into the swing of business.
Holidays are another factor to strongly consider as there are peak times in shipping during the holidays. A little unknown fact, while many of us are in the full swing of Summer business, mid-August is the start of the shipping peak season which runs through October. All industries, including the car care industry, is greatly affected by this peak season which affects numerous aspects of logistics and shipping. The high demand for products during the detailing busy Summer season also places additional high demands for products. With the holiday season being so close, respectively the holidays are always closer to retailers than they are for us as consumers. This means that while many of us are busy detailing in our shops during the Summer, companies and retailers are working feverishly to have their products available for the upcoming holiday season. Even with this level of readiness and anticipation by manufacturers and retailers, It is often difficult to prevent situations that may lead to backorders or other shipping issues.
Global Commerce Climate
The world stage is much smaller and much more connected than ever before. World trade problems have a great effect on supply and demand, creating delays and/or issues for both retailers and consumers. Global problems can often reshape or change the flow at which products can be supplied, or in some instances, it can cause disruption in reaction to growing tensions between countries that can affect trade substantially. With the ever-growing retail trend of e-commerce, the rise in demand often raises labor costs, higher carrier rates and warehouse capacity costs. All of this can lead to consumers experiencing shipping delays.
None of us can predict global catastrophes, wars or local disasters. Its something none of us want to even think about, but unfortunately, these things can wreak havoc on supplies and demands on goods. We are globally connected more than ever and disruptions or catastrophes in one part of the world can greatly impact the rest of the globe rather quickly. We’ve seen scenarios over the years of hoarding products and strains on even the most common of products during a coming hurricane or even during these trying times of the Covid-19 outbreak. Not that anyone is going to be hoarding 5 inch buffing pads during a catastrophe, but it is important to keep aware of what is happening in the world and how it can affect your business. With e-commerce being extremely popular, a catastrophic event can impact e-commerce and what goods get priority in the event of a disaster.
Factory Shut Downs
Some companies shut down their operations completely and this also adds to the shipping dilemma. Many of these annual shutdowns take place during the holidays or during a slow time in their production. When I worked for General Motors in my younger days, we always shut down for 2 weeks around Christmas and then in the summer for 2 weeks in which their new model change would often take place. The detailing industry is not immune to shutdowns, and most retailers in our industry do their best to recognize these shutdowns and plan for them.
It goes without saying that weather can always have an impact on shipping and in severe weather situations, it disrupts all aspects of business and often leads to shipping delays. Weather is unpredictable and retailers have a difficult time even when the bad weather is not in their area or part of the country. For example, a company in California can be dealing with forest fires which then causes delays on products to get to retailers elsewhere in the country. We’ve seen this played out many times before, especially during the winter snowstorms.
Processing Times & Extra Notice
Taking into consideration a few of the above-mentioned factors, disruptions in the flow can cause online retailers to become backed up with orders to fill. This means that orders that typically take 1 day to ship, may take longer to process with all of the delays and backups. Extra processing time may be required for such instances. In the case of small online stores, this can be especially significant as the orders are being shipped out personally. I’ve seen this scenario played out with some coating companies as the detailer notifies his or her rep with an order and the order may not be shipped due to being ordered late in the day, the order was forgotten, time/zone issues or they are so backed up on orders that delays are inevitable. Its important to keep in mind that extra notice may be required in these instances.
New Products & Popular Favorites
It happens often in detailing, a new product launches and everyone is quick to be the first on the block to own it. The demand is high and so is the probability for shipping delays. Companies hope that their new products will be extremely popular with the masses, but at the end of the day, its difficult to predict what will be a hit and what won’t. So there is always a chance that something may take off and the company has to ramp up production, hopefully without delays to the retailer. Another factor to consider is with products that are extremely popular and commonly sell out. This is what happened to my detailing colleague that tried to order applicator pads. This can be frustrating as it takes constant monitoring when a product is back in stock and usually runs out quickly. I recommend having a substitute backup product that is similar or performs comparably. This scenario is often quickly addressed by companies, once they recognize the popularity of a certain product. With any luck, they will be able to meet the growing demands before their competition steps in.
We all have experienced shipping delays at some point and unfortunately, in many cases they are out of the control of the retailer. As consumers, we do need to keep conscious of factors that may affect our order when its placed. In detailing, I’ve seen detailers place orders and when a delay happens, they instantly go into a full Willy Wonka Veruca Salt mode and with a “I want my detailing order now!” mentality. On occasions, these unfair rants can be found on forums from time to time. Unfortunately, things happen that are out of our control. In this article, I hope it can help shed some light on recognizing some factors that can cause shipping delays. We can forecast some of these factors such as a holiday or special events but need to recognize that some factors can’t be forecasted and we need to be more understanding when shipping delays happen.