The year is coming to a close and the holidays are upon us. That means annual traditions of family, food… and stressful holiday shopping.
This season, the holiday shopping stress may take on a whole new meaning. Due to global supply chain delays and labor shortages, inventories could be squeezed, and deliveries delayed, resulting in frustrated shoppers.
In a new survey by KPMG, 82% of retail executives surveyed are somewhat or very concerned about inventory shortages in 2021. Furthermore, FedEx’s deadline for domestic ground delivery for Christmas this year is December 15th, a full nine days before Santa’s sleigh leaves the north pole.
Thankfully, there are a few retailers who are ready to make sure all the good girls & boys have a Merry Christmas. Fourth-generation family-owned Koeze Company of Grand Rapids, MI, is one of them. Known for their Colossal Cashews, Cream-Nut peanut butter, chocolate turtles and holiday gift baskets, Koeze relies on the fourth quarter to generate over 85% of its annual revenue. Given the highly seasonal nature of their business, Koeze has become an expert in meeting their customers' product and delivery needs in the fourth quarter each year. Several of Koeze’s executives shared insights on exactly how they ensure that everyone on their customers’ nice lists will have a happy holiday in 2021:
1. Supply Chain Planning
With basic products like paper towels and toilet paper struggling to stay on the shelf in 2020, Koeze company began planning and placing orders for important supplies ahead of their typical schedule in 2021. Orders for items like glass decanters, foil wrapped boxes, and wicker baskets were placed up to 8 weeks earlier in 2021 as compared to 2020. Doing so turned out to be critically important, as most of these key components arrived just in time for Koeze to start preparing for the holiday gift delivery in September. According to Phil Rietberg, sourcing manager, “Getting ahead of our typical order cycle was key to our ability to deliver this holiday season. We’ll likely order even earlier in 2022.”
2. Customer Communication
Shipping delays don’t just impact sourcing. Delivering gifts directly to customers could also be a problem this season, due to the fact that delivery services are near capacity now. As the holidays approach, there is growing concern that labor shortages might become an even bigger problem for service providers like FedEx and UPS.
Consequently, customers may find their packages not arriving on time if they don’t order well in advance. By placing their orders early, customer-service oriented companies like Koeze can help their customers make sure their gifts arrive on time. But doing so requires an added layer of communication.
To that point, Jeff Koeze, president and CEO, crafted a holiday letter that went out to all of his prior customers in September of 2021. In his letter, Jeff said “We are confident in our ability to deliver this season, but ordering earlier this season will help make sure that everyone has a happy holiday.” So far Koeze’s customers are responding, placing orders in October for December delivery at a much stronger pace than in prior years.
3. Employee Engagement
Many local companies have struggled to attract & retain needed staff in 2021 to help satisfy customer needs, and this holiday is no exception. Given Koeze’s seasonal business, they are highly dependent on temporary staff. In fact, they bring in about 75 temporary employees to help support retail, manufacturing, and customer service operations each season, nearly tripling their number of employees during the last 2 months of each year.
Because of their consistent need for seasonal help, Koeze has made it a habit of treating their temporary employees like family. According to Ben Zorn, vice president of operations, “Every season, Koeze treats their employees to the same perks we give to our full-time employees. This includes catered holiday meals around Thanksgiving & Christmas, employee discounts at the retail store, and company gifts at the end of the season.”
Koeze’s treatment of their temporary staff has paid off over the years in terms of less time spent recruiting & training, better customer service, and a more engaged workforce overall. The results are measurable: Over 50% of Koeze’s 2021 temporary staff were returnees from prior seasons, saving the company valuable time & money.
In the spirit of the holiday, Koeze would like to bring joy this season with an exclusive offer for MiBiz readers: Stop by one of our two Grand Rapids, MI area retail locations (1971 East Beltline & 2577 Burlingame Ave. SW) before Christmas day, and receive a FREE 30oz Cashew decanter ($49.95 value) with orders of $500 or more.Just mention offer code MIBIZ2021.This offer is only available in-stores, so please come visit us.Happy holidays from Koeze Company!