No matter how prepared we are for the major logistical operation that is Christmas hamper dispatch, unfortunately there are always going to be hurdles placed in our way. These can often be three or even fourfold as we are in the middle of the chain: Suppliers > BasketsGalore (Retailer) > Delivery Company > Recipient.
Even if we ourselves get everything right, which we always try our very best to achieve, things can go wrong at other stages in the chain.
Neil begins ordering the stock for our Christmas hampers many months in advance. We stock items from over a hundred different food suppliers and so this is a mmonth task in itself. He usually arranges for the stock to arrive in stages and in a certain order based on which hampers he wants to be packing that day. He also builds in a contingency of extra product should our sales go well. This year one of the issues we faced was a major Chocolate company we purchase from closing down and so not being able to fulfill our order. We also had packing grinding to a halt as we awaited the arrival of sweets from a new supplier, only to find they hadn't even started production yet. We also had products arriving late, damaged or in only half the required amount. We also faced problems from the companies supplying our packaging when again production of our Via Romana box was started late and we ran out at one stage, and our chilled goods sleeve also not arriving as planned.
There is also the possibility to cause ourselves problems if we don't have enough of a certain hamper type prepacked, after all we have to estimate our expected sales and sometimes a certain hamper can sell much better than another one we have plenty of in stock. Another issue might be if we haven't ordered enough of a certain product in, due to a calculation error, and then replacements need to be made. Time management is also extremely important as there are only so many hours in the day to get the orders processed through. Internal issues are the easiest to influence, control and keep to a minimum.
Even if you have done everything right and get the right hampers out at the right time, there are still potential pitfalls. Due to the volume of parcels in the network in December, sometimes the courier companies "bulk out". This means they just didn't have the room to get all the parcels going that day onto the aeroplane or van, and so these parcels then experience a 24 hour delay. Or even if the parcels make the connection at our side, the driver in the delivery town may time out as again there are so many hours in the day. Other problems can be difficult to locate addresses and no-one answering the contact number to help provide directions. In December the couriers do deliver on into the evening and at weekends however, so that is a great help.
So the order was processed successfully and is out for delivery in a timely matter, you think that would mean success wouldn't you? But unfortunately this isn't always the case. Sometimes the address we have been given is incorrect or the recipient simply wasn't at home to receive their parcel. Occasionally we have had recipients refusing to sign for the parcel as they didn't realise they were getting a gift and know they didn't order anything. We do brand our delivery boxes to show they are gifts to help with this!
All in all no matter where the problem occurs in the chain unfortunately we are seen to be at fault and are held accountable. All we can do is try to manage our part in the chain the best way we can. We use reliable suppliers, control our own processes, work with the best couriers around and then are here to help with after care problems.
We're pleased to say that despite all these hurdles only a small number of parcels experienced delays or had to be resent again in the New Year. We try to explain during checkout that the preferred delivery date is met on a best endeavour basis in December, and hopefully this blog has helped to highlight why there can sometimes be delays despite our best efforts. Most of our lovely customers are happy that they are notified the day before delivery will take place and again on the day, so as they don't wait in on the incorrect day. Those who shop with us during the rest of the year know just how exact deliveries are during January - November. It is just when the major event of online Christmas shopping is taking place that things can sometimes be affected, but even at that we think our chain did a pretty good job!