Most people in the retail industry are familiar with the concept of “Peak Season,” which is the influx of product into US distribution and fulfillment prior to the holidays, in order to stockpile product ahead of Black Friday. Challenges of manufacturing product, shipping space availability, and inventory space allocation are especially important to bear in mind during this time. But did you know that there’s another peak? Spring Peak is the convergence of two factors: the manufacturing rush prior to Chinese New Year, and the race for space in the fulfillment centers when large items, such as inflatable swimming pools and outdoor furniture, start arriving.
First, let’s discuss Chinese New Year. This is a time when manufacturing in China stops for a week at the end of January/ beginning of February. This year, Chinese New Year falls on January 28th, and extends through the following week. This holiday and the associated break is unique because in Chinese culture this is an important time to celebrate family and reunite with loved ones, which means most workers simply will not be working, in any capacity. Many will travel home and won’t even have access to work emails or phone calls, which means there is typically zero manufacturing and zero shipping happening during this time.
Companies who want to ship prior to the New Year usually make extra efforts in early to mid-January to make sure their products have been manufactured and shipped ahead of the shut-down. This is especially apparent at the origin ocean ports of lading (e.g.; Yantian, Ningbo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong) where companies fight fiercely for space aboard those last departing ships. Often, shipping operations maintain a skeleton crew working for emergency services only, but in many cases non-China based companies simply have to wait until everyone returns from the holiday in order to resume movement of goods.
Once operations resume, of course there’s naturally a log-jam of cargo that was ready to ship but didn’t make it in time, leading to another round of shortages, wherein cargo can wait for 2-3 weeks at the origin terminal before everything clears out and normal shipping volumes return.
The second factor to keep in mind, is that the type of products flowing into Amazon FCs and that are in-demand during spring and summer months, are generally larger in size and take up more space in the fulfillment centers. As mentioned, outdoor furniture (of which Amazon carries its own private label products) as well as outdoor toys, games, inflatable pools and related equipment all factor into the spring inventory cycle. This puts space at somewhat of a premium, albeit not as much as during holiday peak inventory levels.
It’s very important to make sure you are aware of Spring Peak shipping and inventory cycles, especially now since manufacturing, shipping, and inventory levels are ramping up in advance of Chinese New Year. Don’t get left out in the cold, spring is right around the corner! If you need assistance, have questions, or want more information, please feel free to contact us.