Brands and retailers across the fashion industry are laser-focused on one of the biggest challenges of the upcoming holiday season: getting products to shoppers on time.
The supply chain, as brands, politicians and trade publications have pointed out, is in disarray. Shipping is expensive, ports are backed up and intermittent lockdowns have caused brands to lose weeks of production time. But customers may be less aware of what’s happening and prone to complain when the product they’re used to getting in four to seven days doesn’t show up for two weeks or more.
To alleviate that, brands have been giving pre-emptive warnings to customers in the hopes of gaining sympathy for their predicaments. These warnings have taken the form of emails, as well as notes on product and checkout pages informing customers that they should be prepared to wait longer for deliveries and should order earlier this year.
David Tichiaz, vp and gm of Vans, sent an email to customers on Oct. 30 warning that products would take longer than usual to arrive. The email stated, “We aren’t immune to the challenges that port and shipping congestion, logistical backlogs and limited product availability have on the shipping and delivery of our products.”
Michael Preysman, founder of Everlane, sent a similar letter to customers in August. In the letter, Preysman gave an account of how the supply chain for the brand’s production and shipping was being disrupted, citing an example of the brand’s popular Utility Barrel Pant. Its order of the women’s pant was 13 weeks delayed due to lockdowns in Sri Lanka, where it is produced.
Meanwhile, online retailer BHLDN has opted to place warnings about potential order delays on its e-commerce site, via notes placed alongside product information.
These warnings, the brand executives said, are important to set expectations for customers throughout the holiday season. Amazon has trained consumers to expect incredibly quick turnaround times, but delivery-related issues are looming.
“People have been somewhat understanding about complications or delays, or paying a small extra Covid tax at a restaurant. But I’m worried that the farther away we get from [the height of Covid], the less understanding people will be,” said Sarah Flint, founder of her eponymous brand. Flint’s team is currently strategizing on how to communicate supply chain issues and price increases to its customers.
Some of these messages come with incentives and calls to action to help alleviate the problem. For its part, Dr. Martens told its customers in an email on Oct. 26 to expect its shoes to take longer than usual to arrive and to “shop early to ensure you get all the Docs on your list.”
The encouragement to shop early is a common refrain. Vans is going even further, offering free shipping to all customers and expedited shipping to Vans loyalty members for orders placed between Nov. 1-24. Getting ahead of the post-Black-Friday crunch is the aim. According to Digiday research, nearly one-third of brands are planning to run holiday sales for more than five weeks.
Some brands have gone even further, using the chance to talk about the supply chain issues facing the company as an opportunity to pitch loyalty programs.
For instance, on Oct. 8, Walmart sent customers a letter from Joe Metzger, evp of supply chain operations, that went into detail on how the company is trying to avoid some of the issues plaguing retail. That letter also came with an incentive: to ensure they don’t miss out on Black Friday deals that may be in short supply, Walmart wants customers to become Walmart+ members to get Black Friday deals early. It’s both a way to prepare people for shipping delays and to further compete against Amazon Prime.