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What is Peak Shipping Season?

Resources > What is Peak Shipping Season?
Ready to make the holiday rush? Understand what is peak shipping season with information from a logistics industry leader.
Published: March 10, 2020
Last Modified: March 19, 2024
Author: Ask Truckload

Sometimes logistics can be the hardest part of running a great business operation. There are so many variables that it can be hard to guarantee the safe and timely arrival of goods. But some months of the calendar year are a lot more favorable than others and will give you a better chance of everything running smoothly. A few times each year, international freight business experiences a higher volume of traffic than usual; this is known as Peak Shipping Season. For those who may never have dealt with international logistics before, this can totally derail their carefully laid plans.

Peak shipping season in the U.S. generally occurs from August through October. This is due to numerous holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years) that are celebrated by many in the following months. For some businesses, the peak season continues through December and January due to Valentine’s Day.

When Does Peak Shipping Season Begin and End?

There are two main peak shipping seasons in the world of international shipping. The first occurs as a consequence of the holiday shipping retail peak season bump, covering Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Christmas. The logistics of this mean that from mid-August to mid-October, there is a lot more bulk freight being shipped globally. A second, shorter peak season occurs from January to February, and this is influenced by the break of Chinese New Year, which affects manufacturing operations for the world’s single largest exporter. 

During these times of year, you will find that demand on shipping services is increased. Shipping volumes shoot up globally as retailers make their orders and distribution centers feel the strain. Obviously, operating along the lines of supply and demand, this means that prices include a surcharge at these times of year and are a lot more expensive to fulfill. Truck drivers are harder to come by, freight rates shoot up sky high and transit times lengthen. 

This is why planning your shipping during peak shipping season is quite time sensitive. If possible, you should plan ahead for key dates like Black Friday, or try to avoid them altogether if that’s at all possible for your company.

  • Planning ahead is key if you want to avoid peak shipping season
  • If you are handling a time-sensitive product you will need to take extra measures
  • Expect shipping fees to cost your business more around key dates in the retail calendar

What Causes Peak Shipping Season?

what causes peak shipping season

There are lots of factors which feed into Peak Shipping Season.  You have a situation where both local and global conditions can make a big difference.

  1. The season starts with the back to school retail push in September
  2. Black Friday and Cyber Monday see a huge spike in the volume of retailer sales, causing a knock on effect further back in the logistics train
  3. Last minute holiday sales keep the peak season booming – the last few months of the year are a prime shopping season as retailers need goods on their shelves to meet the needs of shoppers
  4. This holiday season is a key driver of retail profit – they can comprise up to 30% of the whole year’s sales figures
  5. ‘Golden Week’ is a Chinese National Holiday which begins on the first day of October, and goes on for seven days. Factories and suppliers over there are closed for the duration of the week, and this comes right in the middle of the busiest season for shipping
  6. This means that orders must be in for any goods required for Thanksgiving weekend before Golden Week begins, resulting in an even smaller window to get shipping right

Does Shipping During Peak Season Cost More?

how can you save money during peak shipping season

The demand is so great that carriers raise their prices, so you will have to pay a peak season surcharge.

With so much demand, it really is true that planning ahead is key to make it all work, as well as budgeting a little more to cover increased costs of industry peak season. However, there are some ways that you can try to save money, even during this busy season.

  • Start by looking at what specific products you have, which are more time-sensitive and prioritize these orders for first dispatch
  • Make sure your freight company knows which shipments are the time-critical ones – during peak season things often held up and if they’re at overcapacity it can result in things getting delayed
  • Take in a clear forecast of peak retail season using data analytics from your previous year, along with information on shipping industry trends to understand how much you will need to import.
  • Delay customization on certain goods. If you offer different options on a product which all tend to ship out separately,  work out the key products that you need to get out and consider offering a delayed option. You can also offer a waiting list to customers for the other options, rather than delaying the whole shipment.
  • Aim to narrow down the variety of goods that you ship during peak season so you can ship early.. It’s not the right time of year to introduce dozens of new lines. You don’t know how sales will go. Use the time to focus on your core products so you don’t end up with lots of containers that risk delaying your shipment.
  • If you have to ship LCL, make sure you separate out the shipment to ensure that you have some stock, even if other parts get delayed. It does create a bit more work in administration – separate invoices and packing lists. It may cost you a little bit more to air freight some of your stock and pay another set of handling charges, but splitting your stock gives you a safety net against any delays in ocean-based shipping.
  • Separate your containers onto different bills of lading. Carriers follow this, rather than the containers, so if you split the bills your containers appear on, it’s likely that even if one bill gets delayed, some of your product will still make it through.

Peak Season Shipping with R+L Global Logistics

If you need some support with getting your shipping completed on time as importers and exporters, coping with peak season and guarding against delays, working with an experienced firm who can handle the demands of global logistics makes perfect sense . Dealing with peak shipping season can be challenging, but with the right support in place for your supply chain needs, planning ahead and a few clever tactics you can make it work for your business.

TO learn more about peak shipping season and how to accommodate services like truckload freight and refrigerated shipping, get a free freight quote today by calling (866) 353-7178. We can handle your shipping from Florida to New York and everywhere in between with specific requests like military vehicle shipping too.

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