Annual Trends: Peak Seasons for the Retail Supply Chain

It’s late July, and you step foot into your local big box store. Summer is almost over, and school supplies are front and center, as well as the annual promotion of back-to-school shopping. It is an all too familiar feeling and one of many peaks that the retail supply chain sees throughout the year.

Like other industries, retail has predictable ebbs and flows that occur throughout the year. For the retail industry, the process never truly stops as they are either in a state of anticipation or action.

Avoiding hiccups and getting the most out of each peak season ultimately lies with how effectively each organization can forecast during the build-up to each peak season and then how quickly they can react once everything is in full swing.

Having an ongoing stream of reliable data is vital for global organizations to remain flexible if they want to maximize profits during these high-volume segments of the year.

Tools like Trax’s freight audit and payment (FAP) system can help simplify the complex challenges of the retail supply chain. With data leading the way, decision-making can be streamlined, allowing organizations to pivot when necessary.

Peak seasons in retail supply chain management vary across industries and regions, however, there are a few peaks that have a global impact. Below we cover four of the largest annual peak seasons and trends.

Holiday Season

All roads lead to Rome or, in the case of the retail supply chain – the holiday season. The holiday season is traditionally what people think of when they hear peak season in the retail world. Other peaks come and go, but the holidays are when consumers are at their most active.

Over the past 20 years, the holiday season has undergone a transformation, with retail sales getting a boost of adrenaline in the form of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

In 2022, Black Friday online sales in the US amounted to $9.2 billion, a 2.3% increase from 2021, and Cyber Monday sales reached $11.3 billion. One of the biggest shifts in recent years has been how consumers are purchasing, as mobile commerce has played a significant role, with Gen Z and millennial consumers conducting over 85% of their shopping via a mobile device.

This season traditionally runs from November through the end of December, but the process for the supply chain begins as early as late July.

Back-to-School Season

Back-to-school often gets overshadowed as many in the retail industry are laying the groundwork for the holiday season, but it remains a major peak for the retail supply chain. Each year, millions of consumers purchase clothing, school supplies, and more as they equip their children with all of the necessities for the upcoming school year.

In 2022, back-to-school and college spending in the US reached $36.9 billion, with an average household spending $848. Like the holiday season, e-commerce continues to play a significant role in back-to-school shopping. Last year the industry saw a 53% increase in online sales compared to the previous year.

Valentine's Day

As soon as the calendar resets, the retail industry is bracing themselves for the next big push. Making the switch from the holiday season to Valentine’s Day seems to happen in the blink of an eye. Regardless of whether you feel that Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday, the fact remains that consumers are spending more and more for their loved ones each year.

In the U.S. alone, consumer spending associated with February 14th reached approximately $22 billion in 2022, with an average individual spending $160. Nearly half of which was purchased within the two weeks leading into the holiday.

As with the previously mentioned seasons, e-commerce played a significant role in capturing 23% of the market share of all retail Valentine’s sales.

Prime Day (Amazon)

Each of the three previous peak seasons provides a mix of in-store and e-commerce sales. Amazon’s Prime Day has quickly become one of the biggest retail holidays in the supply chain since its introduction by the global retail giant in July of 2015.

While the date(s) fluctuate slightly each year, global Prime Day sales in 2022 exceeded $11 billion, an increase of almost 10% from the previous year. Over 250 million items were purchased during the 2022 event, a number that was quickly surpassed on the opening Prime Day earlier this month. Initial reports from Amazon show their single biggest sales day in history, with over 375 million items sold worldwide.

2023 Market Trends and Expectations for Retail Supply Chain

For most in the retail supply chain, the COVID-19 bounceback is well underway. The material shortages, shipping delays, and other hiccups that plagued the industry over the last few years are quickly being replaced with record numbers in sales.

The challenge for many organizations coming off the heels of COVID-19 has been accurate forecasting. For most, this can be boiled down to either unreliable data or systems and processes that are not fully integrated. 

Visibility has been a critical factor for organizations across the globe, and as more of the market shifts to e-commerce, its impact will only be amplified. Putting the right tools in place allows organizations that are expanding into new markets and regions to leverage data rather than relying on outdated forecasting models.

The key component that should be considered is the ability of systems and processes to be fully integrated to help avoid cracks in the process. Going this route provides a clear picture through accurate data that can improve decision-making, impacting every piece of your supply chain management process.

Trax is Your Retail Supply Chain Partner

Each peak season requires careful planning and execution. Retail suppliers understand that there are no days off and that flexibility is an essential component to squeeze every drop out of each peak season. Having the right tools at your fingertips can help simplify the complex nature of the global supply chain.

At Trax, our goal is to provide systems and processes, like our freight audit and payment system, that streamline your supply chain management operations. Visibility through reliable data is at our core and is a central part of every product we create. Connect with our team to take a closer look at our transportation spend management solutions and how they can help streamline how you run your business.

Trax Technologies

Trax Technologies

Trax is the global leader in Transportation Spend Management solutions. We partner with the most global and complex brands to drive meaningful optimizations and savings through industry-leading technology solutions and world-class advisory services. With the largest global footprint spanning North America, Latin America, Asia, and Europe, we enable our clients to have greater control over their transportation performance and spend. Our focus is on your success.