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Valentine's Day Shipping & Logistics

February 4, 2022 Kevin Baxter

Valentine's Day

When the annual tradition of Valentine's Day comes around each February 14th, there's a scramble for gifts like flowers, chocolates, and jewelry. What do those Valentine's Day gifts have in common? They require logistics to traverse the supply chain into the hands of Valentines everywhere. Since we're a freight and logistics company, it's only natural we'd think of this romantic holiday in terms of shipping. Awhile back, InTek President Shelli Austin wrote all about Valentine's Day shipping and logistics in an article for 3PL Perspectives magazine - an article we're reposting here. Happy Valentine's Day!!

Love on the Run

Love it or loathe it? For most of my life, I considered Valentine’s Day one of the most useless holidays and just a crafty ploy for the retail industry to guilt people into spending more money.   However - when thinking through the holiday in the sense of the logistics industry - while my opinion has not changed personally, professionally I find the holiday very intriguing. It would shock most people to know that four of the top five gifts most commonly purchased at Valentine’s Day at some point have moved on the rail to get to their destination location for either purchase or final delivery for the delight and excitement of the end consumer. Temperature controlled Intermodal is one of the hidden modes of transportation that many still do not know exist.

As the rail lines continue to provide transit times close to truck, the use of Dry and Temperature Control Intermodal is more sought after for movement of products that most would have never imagined would move on the rail. Jelly Belly Director of Distribution Zahid Rashid explains,

“As it turns out, the railroads have mostly come through. "More than 95 percent of the time, shipments arrive within the four-day transit time we were achieving with over-the-road," Rashid says.” (Zahid Rashid Jelly Belly’s Director of Distribution)

Top 5 gifts for Valentine’s Day: Flowers (2.0bn), Chocolate (1.8bn), Jewelry (4.7bn), Greeting Cards, and Night on the Town (3.7bn)

Two of the top gifts (Flowers and Chocolate) for this holiday at some point have moved on temperature-controlled rail for cost and or capacity reasons to get from point A to point B to have the proper placement on the shelves at the right time for purchase on February 14th. Kyle Achter in SupplyChain247 writes, 

“Without the proper temperatures, flowers bloom and fade before they can be enjoyed by the recipient.

Complicating this need for the ideal temperature, flowers travel a long way from field to store. Eighty percent of all flowers sold for Valentine’s Day are shipped from Latin America, with 12% coming from domestic production and 8% arriving from other locations. In 2013, 231,466 1,000-stem-count bushels of roses were imported into the U.S. from Latin America.”

The once thought of deferred “slow boat to China” service has become one of the most sophisticated modes of transit for protection of perishable goods. These providers have the ability from a computer to monitor the temperature of a container to the minute through the life of the shipment and adjust temperature accordingly without ever being in the same physical location of the container. In this Slate piece, we see that,

“In today’s high-tech containers, the process of ripening fruit can now be slowed down or sped up, timed to coincide with the dates on which produce will hit the supermarket shelves. Even fragile goods (like fish and flowers) are regularly sent inside these precisely controlled reefers.”

As you think through the impact of transportation related to this day of consumer spending, you start to lose yourself in a web of connections. Much of the jewelry sold originates overseas, therefore the life of this commodity starts on the water in a container. Then once it hits land, it has a likelihood of moving inland on the rail before final delivery through a truck. As we get closer to the holiday, many of these modes of transit become more time-sensitive and transition from ocean, rail, and truck movement to air, truck, and cargo van movement. Months of planning and resources go into the preparation to ensure the timing is just right to have these items on the shelf for purchase.

The only item that has gone in reverse regarding increased transportation spend would be the greeting card industry, as much of this has converted to ecards. In many ways, the movement toward ease and convenience is adversely affecting the personal touch that the holiday once had. The folks at OpenMe say, "This old fashion approach is becoming more en-vogue, as people associate hand-written cards with more care and appreciation.”

The challenge that I place to the readers is think about the impact of transportation 10 years ago on this day of giving to what it is today and then expand to what these impacts will be 10 years from now. Look at our last top 5 gift with a night on the town and how transportation is a critical component of even this, with many couples now using Uber or Lyft to make it a “night to remember."

If you're looking for solutions to reliably move your valuable loads - whether they be dozens of roses or boxes of chocolates - reach out to us at InTek Freight & Logistics to leverage our decades of freight and logistics expertise. 

To learn more about us - and the industry in general - go to our Resources Page or visit the highlighted pages below. 

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