A truck driver shortage, rising fuel costs and persistent port problems may be forcing the buying public to hurry up and wait, but much like time itself, the holiday season waits for no one. And according to the National Retail Federation as well as Prosper Insights & Analytics, it won't disappoint in terms of sales. Indeed, the average consumer is expected to spend nearly $1,000 on gifts, holiday items and other seasonal purchases.

Thus, if the holiday season is your business's busy season — as it is for many companies in a variety of industries — you'll need to optimize your supply chain now so it doesn't encounter snags as Dec. 25 gets closer.

These tips can help ensure your supply chain performs so "the most wonderful time of the year" is also the most profitable:

1. Communicate expectations as early as possible
It's said that the early bird catches the worm, and the same holds true for customer communication. Getting out ahead of the holiday rush is critical — and the earlier the better.  If you know that certain products won't be available when customer volume typically intensifies, you may want to inform buyers of this reality now so you can better establish expectations for later on. You may also want to overestimate when orders will arrive. Doing so will enable customers to plan accordingly so they can make smarter buying decisions.

Key performance indicators can help you make sense of your data.Key performance indicators can help you make sense of your data.

2. Dig into your data
If you're not leveraging data, you're not making the forward-looking decisions that you could be. Whether you're leveraging key performance indicators or the increased visibility that's available through enterprise resource planning software, data gathering and analysis allow you to be more strategic by pairing "what if" scenarios with solutions.

3. Streamlining the small things can lead to better big things
While improving profitability may be the ultimate goal during any busy season — holiday or otherwise — focusing on the basics can help you reach your sales goals. For example, if you know that the supply chain will be slower than normal this year — as it is shaping up to be for just about every business owner — then you'll need to streamline certain processes to speed things up without cutting corners. You and your team can do this by implementing smarter storage ideas, maximizing shelving space or investing in better equipment. Systematizing workflows can make for faster order fulfillment. It can also produce happier buyers, who may obtain their orders earlier than anticipated.

4. Correct persistent problems to counteract new ones
Every peak season creates new challenges, but depending on how long you've been in the business, you can probably identify a few that seem to come up again and again. Given the delays you will likely encounter this year, see if you can spot patterns in any portion of your production process and determine what corrective steps can mitigate them. Doing so may help you offset any pain points that occur in the coming weeks.

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