Typically, Cyber Monday falls a week earlier than this year, in late November instead of on December 2nd. Typically, the big snowstorms in upstate New York are in January, February, and early March. And typically, we’re never allowed to discount the very popular Rupes Polishers.
This year was not typical. All three of those things happened, and it created a level of chaos that we haven’t seen in a while.
First, the good: by Rupes allowing their popular-but-pricey polishers to be discounted on Black Friday and Cyber Monday we saw volume like we’ve never seen before. We made sure that our sales highlighted this, and it turns out that consumers really wanted these products at a discount. Revenue from Black Friday was almost double our previous largest sales day – Black Friday 2018 – and Cyber Monday also beat Black Friday from last year, meaning that we had our two largest sales days in history only a few days apart. I was relieved that our website held up without any issues.
The not-so-good part was that the late Cyber Monday combined with an early snowstorm created some big challenges in fulfilling those orders. The storm – which turned out to be 22.6″, our 8th biggest in history – was strong from mid-day Sunday through Tuesday morning. We ran a Sunday morning shift, but closed on Monday. By Monday morning we were so backed up that we’d enacted our package cutoff system twice and our website was displaying an estimated ship date of Wednesday for new orders:
It took the team until mid-day Thursday to catch up, so even being conservative we still missed our estimates. That’s unheard of for us. I made sure to assure our team several times that this was alright. We’re so used to being on top of things that you can’t help but be disappointed when you don’t live up to those high standards. But in this case, there’s really nothing more that we could have done.
I also suspect that we weren’t the only ones with this problem, which I made sure to communicate to our team as well. Amazon Prime orders that I placed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday took a full week to arrive. As a whole, Black Friday online sales set records. And this storm affected much of the country, closing warehouses and slowing shipping networks. It was, and probably still is, total chaos at fulfillment centers across the US.
Needless to say, this is not what I expected at all. I expected maybe a slight increase in sales, but smooth sailing in the warehouse. Instead, there was chaos to the point that we were communicating constantly and adjusting (and readjusting) as we saw everything unfold. It’s a good reminder to me that this time of year often brings unexpected things, and to make sure that I don’t over commit my schedule on the chance that a crazy thing or two happens.