May 16, 2002, 12:00 AM

How`s backup plan assured delivery for Mother`s Day`s fallback plan gets product out of California on time by truck when Federal Express runs into unanticipated airlift delays in California.


Mother`s Day represents some of`s biggest business, with the Westbury, NY-based flower and gift retailer logging in more than 100,000 online and 50,000 phone orders on peak shopping days leading up to May 12 this year. Those orders showed up in time - even those that the company accepted on the morning of May 12--Mothers Day--for delivery later that day, a service it offered in some ZIP codes for the first time this year - but not before adding a few gray hairs on the company`s fulfillment team. starts providing projections of delivery needs to its floral network and its shippers, by ZIP code, three months in advance of major holiday spikes, based on the previous year`s numbers. It factors in expectations from marketing surrounding the holiday and updates projections continually as orders start coming in. By the time the holiday is a few weeks off, it`s communicating several times a day with its local florists, central warehouses and regional warehouses on supply capacity and with its shippers on delivery capacity. It manages the expectations of customers online with a feature called Delivery Wizard, added last year, which gives them delivery availability in their ZIP code before they place an order.

Despite intense planning, a week before Mother`s Day FedEx alerted 1-800-Flowers that it might not have sufficient air transport capacity to meet projected demand out of California. It was a recap of sorts of Valentine`s Day, when the retailer learned a few days before the holiday that the shipper would not have sufficient air capacity to meet demand out of Miami, a major flower distribution point to rest of the country.

"We had enough notice that we were able to move product around," 1-800-Flowers President Chris McCann tells Internet Retailer. "We took product in trucks out of distribution points in California to other points where we could get FedEx airlift." Federal Express ultimately resolved the problem in California prior to Mother`s` Day, but not before had executed the fallback plan.

Customers never knew about the last minute scramble because deliveries showed up on schedule. "There are a lot of moving pieces," says McCann of the company`s fulfillment operation. "We consider it a Herculean task to make it happen on time, but that`s our job, to make that magic happen for our customers."



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