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  November 20th, 2016 | Written by

Countdown to Black Friday: How LTL Can Be Part of the Strategy

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  • LTL is a viable way to get product to store shelves in time for Black Friday.
  • 3PLs analyze shipments to determine whether they should go standard LTL, small parcel, or consolidated into truckload.
  • Some retailers are increasingly making pickup at stores a differentiator in the marketplace.

Retailers are working hard to prepare for the crowds of consumers who are excited to jumpstart their holiday shopping on Black Friday. Transportation and logistics professionals are in the thick of it, too. And as we get closer to the big day, less than truckload (LTL) and small parcel shipments will continue to play a big role in keeping goods flowing from manufacturers and distribution centers (DCs) to warehouses and retail locations across the country.

With a typical three to five day transit time, LTL is still a viable, efficient way to get product to store shelves in time for Black Friday shoppers. A third-party logistics provider (3PL) can analyze your LTL shipments and help determine whether your shipment should ride standard LTL, small parcel, or be consolidated into truckload to take advantage of the parameters—from the lowest cost method or preferred transit times—that suit your supply chain needs and contribute to a seamless Black Friday, logistically speaking.

But part of the equation includes the effective management of inventory. Many retailers are changing their strategy, clamping down on the amount of inventory they sit on—which can also reduce associated carrying costs. As consumer demand dictates product movement, shippers need flexible options—and LTL or small parcel are often the best-fit transit solutions.

Creating consistency in the flow of inventory, reducing lead time, and reducing touch points by delivering directly to a retailer’s DCs can lead to an overall reduction in damaged product and shortages. All of this adds up to retailers receiving the goods they need at their DC, when they need them, so they are available for consumers to buy off the shelf or online.

Small parcel and LTL shippers are likely consumed with two thoughts this time of year: getting product delivered on time, and the additional cost of the expedited deliveries online shoppers have come to expect. Some large retailers have increased their focus on making pickup at stores a differentiator in the marketplace. To mitigate the risk of late deliveries and help keep costs in check, consider these tips:

Increase ship-from-store options. Rather than shipping last-minute packages from a few DCs, shippers can utilize retail store locations to house inventories. Keep in mind, though, that this option is dependent on factors such as store inventory capacity, technology integration, and the number of DCs versus stores.

Incentivize earlier order processing. Implement discounts and promotions early in the peak season to reduce last-minute shipping.

Communicate cutoff dates. Work with carriers to develop optimal dates, and make sure customers are aware of those timelines, too.

Greg West is Vice President of LTL Transportation at C.H. Robinson, where he manages sales, operations, carrier management, training, and all other aspects involved in growing the company’s less than truckload (LTL) business. He holds additional responsibilities in growing the company’s consolidation centers and European Groupage business.

Editor’s note: As one of the United States’ biggest single shopping days of the year nears—and the unofficial start of the U.S. consumer holiday shopping season begins—we’ll be highlighting several areas of logistics that are integral in making Black Friday possible. The next in the series will appear on Tuesday, November 22.