Can you smell it, can you feel it, can you taste it…it is almost here? Christmas! Some might say, well, it is not even December yet and there are other holidays to consider before then. This is true and all holidays matter, but not when you look at it from a logistical point of view. Or, to be more exact, when you look at the logistical challenge of it all, especially here in Namibia. Every retailer knows that Christmas can make or break their year financially, but for some it can represent as much as 20 percent of their annual revenue. Imagine not being ready for it.
Of course, luckily we know that Christmas comes on the same date every year like clockwork. So, we can prepare. Being in Namibia that means that we have to place our orders early. Almost everything has to be imported, especially toys, electronics, luxury goods and even turkeys. We have hopefully all saved up for Christmas, or are anticipating a bumper bonus to bolster our Christmas fund and make it a memorable one. Once we have the money, we simply go to our favourite retailer and purchase whatever is on our loved ones’ Christmas wish list or grocery shopping list.
Cannot disappoint anyone. This whole process of buying presents and food for Christmas as well as trees and everything that represents the holiday season is enabled by logistics.
Logistics, yes, ‘the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet requirements of customers or corporations’. Whether it is the presents that are made in Santa’s ‘workshop’, or the food that comes from all over the world or electronic gadgetry made in China, it all has to get to the Land of the Brave somehow. What is more, it has to get here on time. It is no good if a shipment of turkeys arrives on 27 December, little Johnny does not want his new Sony PlayStation on 28 December and imagine the Christmas jumpers only arriving in January. This would lead to disappointment, chaos and frankly quite a few tears and a ruined Christmas.
A retailer’s inventory needs to be up to scratch and anticipate how many of a specific product they will sell before and over the holiday season. This means that orders have to be placed on time. Logistics during the holiday season requires a significant amount of planning. By August, retailers are already increasing their product inventories in preparation for the coming rush. It is hard to wrap your head around, but retailers in Namibia have already ordered products in June and July, especially if they have to come from Asia or America.
Once the goods reach our shores, how do they get from the ports to our shops all over this great nation. Transport in the form of trains, trucks, cars have to be booked and booked early. This is peak season for everyone and the later you book, the more expensive it will be to transport your goods to the shop they are destined for in one of the 14 regions of Namibia. Do not forget that the holiday season is the season that everyone is travelling, wants to be with their family and definitely does not want to work. So, plan the work schedules for shop employees from shelf-stacker to cashier right up to management. No one in the retail business gets to dodge the holiday season. It is part of the great logistical chain that makes Christmas work.
It is no small surprise that the Coca Cola truck advert at Christmas has come to symbolise the arrival of Christmas. The holiday season in the modern world simply cannot happen without having the logistics chain down to a tee. Nothing represents this better than a red truck bringing Christmas.
So, next time you think about Christmas and the happy faces, remember that logistics played a vital and integral part in creating and making the Christmas spirit possible. Wishing you a happy holiday.
• Logan Fransman is the director of Namibia German Centre for Logistics, an institute at The Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). The Centre is based on cooperation between NUST and Flensburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany.