Thought Leadership

Ideas that design the supply chain of the future

A different kind of Thanksgiving, but with not so different logistics

With the festive season round the corner and the start to be made this week with our favorite family holiday – Thanksgiving. But medical experts and government officials all around has taken a united front in declaring this year's "Thanksgiving" celebrations to be of a "different" kind.

The cases of coronavirus infections have been again seeing an upward trend and adding to the cold and hard temperatures that soon will engulf most of the countries, making it impossible to have outdoor gatherings and along with if domestic travels and large gatherings for celebrations are taken up then experts feel that the cases might increase beyond control once more. So to avoid that and to keep us and our loved ones safe, they have all come together for a single message of keeping things simple this year and having a different kind of Thanksgiving with your closest family members in the same household.

But even so, it seems the festive spirits of most are not dampened much. In a recent survey by NCSolutions found that 83% of American households feel that celebrating this year's Thanksgiving is more important than even last year's one as well. And given the tough and challenging days that we all went through in the past months, I guess everyone wants to find some peace and relief in the festivities of Thanksgiving that too with their closest and dearest ones.

But what was more interesting from the survey was that almost 73% of the respondents felt they will be spending more or same as last year for the Thanksgiving purchases and even though the online grocery market has been booming for the past few months, it seems a large number of people (nearly 80%) felt that they will turn to in-store shopping Thanksgiving this year.

A trend that was again prominent from the survey was that most of the buyers were looking for comfort in these troubled times, like 34% of them responded that their major purchases will be towards "foods that remind you of your childhood". And when we talk about Thanksgiving and food, well we can't ignore the holiday's traditional dish – "did someone say turkey? "

The turkey-nomical supply chain

Ever wondered how the supply chain works, that brings your favorite Thanksgiving dish item to your dinner table? In US alone, 40+ million turkeys are consumed on an average on Thanksgiving Day and given the staggering numbers, it would have been impossible to breed fresh turkeys for just a single day, hence 90% of the turkeys consumed on Thanksgiving are frozen and rest are fresh. But frozen turkeys can be raised and processed throughout the year. They are transported to refrigerated facilities to be delivered at a future date. The suppliers' main headache is predicting the supply-demand during the holiday season and plan accordingly to meet those demand timely.

But the more critical one is the fresh turkeys, as it have a 21-day shelf life and given that the primary turkey producing states in the US are Minnesota and North Carolina, you can very well guess the amount of logistics challenges that needs to be handled efficiently to ensure your favorite dish reaches your dinner table fresh and on time for Thanksgiving.

For retailers it's even more complex, as they have to deal with turkey farmers, distributors and logistics carriers to ensure a seamless processing of the turkey supply chain during the holidays. While farmers have to skillfully plan the incubation of eggs, raising of the turkeys and their processing in a timely manner. Distributors again have to take care of their scheduling of the inbound shipments of turkey and ensure proper storage facilities to have the stock ready by the time consumer frenzy begins. Carriers on the other hand have to ensure that they have proper number of refrigerated trucks available for the transfers and ensure on-time deliveries.

This year though, certain trends in the market are expected, especially for fresh turkeys, as due to government protocols there will be smaller gatherings this year so farmers might feel the brunt a bit as demand for larger birds will be lower. Small family gatherings will opt for smaller sized turkeys and given the preparation time needed by the farmers I think this is something that they might not have expected when they had started the breeding process of the birds. For frozen turkeys, it might not be the case, as it can be refrigerated and extra amounts can be stored for a later use like Christmas or New Years.

The Holiday Shopping Season came early

With a lot of global freight carriers experiencing reduced capacities and booked out shipment slots even much before the normal times this year, many retailers and e-commerce giants have been promoting consumers to purchase early for a timely delivery.

So Thanksgiving that generally flags off the holiday shopping season, has no longer been the same this year. Most retailers and e-commerce giants have kicked off their early holiday season sales this year with Amazon having their Prime-day sales in mid-October and similarly the retail chains started boosting consumer purchases with offers.

Still, that being said, as the trend suggested, 80% of them even for thanksgiving had planned for buying in-store rather than online. So if that's the case for even Cyber Monday's in-store deals many of the retail chains have to come up with better planned out sale opportunities to ensure safety of their customers as well has better handling of the whole process. Retail giants like Walmart and Target have already declared their new hybrid models for the event to use both the in-store experience and online in a smarter way. They have planned to limiting the number of people allowed in stores, using single file lines, and pairing the in-person events with online sales.

But no matter how different the start of the holiday season for this year is, Thanksgiving logistical challenges remains the same if not tweaked a bit this year. The complexities in decision making for Thanksgiving supply chains has been there for many years, just this year supply chain leaders had to give a different approach and handling it in a more smarter way. Rise of the hybrid shopping models and focusing on predictive analysis and planning was long overdue in this segment which was taken to the forefront by this pandemic situation and changes in Thanksgiving due to government protocols.

How do you feel Thanksgiving or holiday season and its logistical experience changes for you this year?

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About the author :

Srini Vaidy

President and CEO, Highway 905

Srini Vaidy is the President and CEO of the award-winning, cloud-based logistics technology provider Highway 905. He is an established innovator in the Supply Chain & Logistics space, with an ever-dying passion for coding and technology. For more than 30 years he has been ideating customer-centric and efficiency-driven supply chain execution solutions for the Fortune 500 to help them optimize their logistics costs and strengthen their competitive market position. With one eye on technological trends and the other on the happenings in the logistics space, he likes providing readers with an interesting perspective on the future of logistics industry.