Visions of Sugarplums

Wish fulfillment? That could be what your operation desperately needs this holiday season. According to retail analyst Ken Cassar of Jupiter Media Metrix, fewer shopping days and an anticipated increase in demand could have online retailers struggling with fulfillment burdens in 2002. Cassar notes that consumers have six fewer days than usual to hit the stores this year. With Thanksgiving falling on Nov. 28, shoppers have only 19 days between Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and Dec. 17, the last day that most retailers guarantee a delivery before Christmas. The shortened selling season, combined with a projected 17% increase in online holiday spending — to $13.1 billion — may add up to a 50% jump in volume from 2001.

“If our holiday forecast of a 50% increase in demand is conservative, they could get a 60% to 70% increase in volume,” Cassar says. “It’s alarming that fewer than 10% of the retailers we surveyed had made any material investment since last holiday season.” It’s probably too late to do so now, but you can still salvage the situation somewhat. Jupiter’s research shows that online shoppers are particularly drawn to discounted shipping offers. These, marked with prominent expiration dates and combined with minimum order sizes, could encourage early purchases.