Technology changes everything, including Christmas. Whether it’s agile sourcing of hoverboards or finding the perfect gift for the person who has everything, technology is fixing the problem for good.

Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come as they visit the Xmas supply chain.

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Production: Santa’s little helpers

One of Christmas’s big sellers this year is the come-from-nowhere (and literally exploding) hoverboard. Buzzfeed traced how online celebrity love for the now-ubiquitous hoverboards so quickly lead to a massive supply of product.

They found that Shenzhen has an entire ecosystem dedicated to rapid product demand.

“New product crazes present struggling businesses and eager entrepreneurs alike with an opportunity …. The nature of China’s booming electronics business is to be adaptable to the whims of a global market.”

With over 1,000 factories already producing hoverboards, Shenzhen is already the ‘hoverboard manufacturing capital of the world’.

The Ghost of Christmas past may have been a year-long production cycle, with proprietary tech and careful sourcing . The production for Christmas Present is one of perpetual flux and readiness, from R&D, sourcing and assembly to distribution. We have reached the era of the on-demand, responsive supply chain.

But it comes at a price.

Another story playing out with hoverboards is the potential hazard of cutting corners to save costs. But the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, or a Buzzfeed update anytime soon, will show how quickly the city has instead become the [insert whatever new craze] capital of the world.

Hoverboards: The (literally exploding) hot Christmas gift.

Source: Soar Boards, via Flickr

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Freight: Dasher, Carrier, Forwarder (and Rudolph)

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come looms with startups eager to automate freight shipping, from “Uber-for-trucking” companies like Cargomatic and Convoy, to online freight quoting like us at Freightos, and even incumbent forwarders, with K+N’s new online platform. Lower carrier prices and more efficient technology promise great savings for importers next Christmas season.

There is certainly demand for better freight.

Zepol channeled Santa’s supply chain Big Data:

“Ho, Ho, holy cow! Retailers seem to be gearing up for what could be a mega shopping season…This August alone, U.S. importers brought in 1.86 million TEUs (twenty-foot containers), 9 percent higher than August of 2014”.

The Hackett Associates/National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Global Port Tracker report supported Zepol’s forecast.

“Retailers predict that import volumes at the nation’s major container ports will finish the year on a high note despite weak demand during this year’s traditional peak shipping season.”

On the customs side, it’s still very much the domain of Christmas Past. Ever since the US Congress instituted tariffs as just the second law it ever passed, tariffs have been slow in adapting. NPR’s Planet Money drove the point home with Santa’s costume, which can range from HS Section 9505 (festive articles), as importers would argue, to the U.S. Customs’ claim that the red suit falls under normal apparel codes, which attract much higher import duties.

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Logistics: Filling the Christmas stock(ing)

Logistics for large distributers and retailers are changing fast. We asked a former Amazon logistics manager for his take on current trends with the big e-tailers.

“They are raising the stakes for the rest of the market, by extending peak season. Walmart’s layaway program begins as early as late August. Amazon is the largest player in the last mile revolution, and combined with Prime, more weeks in the year are becoming peak. There is huge pressure on other retailers to up their logistics game through efficient large scale import/export operations to leverage bulk shipping.”

The Christmas rush now starts in July for fulfilment and is getting more and more complex.

Chain Link Research set to out to help with their Supply Chain’s Christmas Checklist of detailed practices and actionable suggestions to “tune your supply chain for better performance, no matter what the season.”

The NRF is also looking into the Christmas Yet To Come with The Retail Supply Chain and The Future of Fulfillment. Take, for instance, UberTREE , designed to take the hassle out of getting that Christmas tree.

Amazon is steadily increasing peak season to year round

Image: Mike Seyfang, via Flickr

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Retail: Selling that special present

Technology is also changing how retailers interact with their customers.

Australia’s Power Retail has advised online retailers and omni-channel retailers to leverage technology for this Christmas with technology that follows the customer journey through all touchpoints. Their sample journey starts with a display ads on a work computer whilst online shopping during a meeting lunch break. Retargeted ads follow the customer later that day as they browse their Facebook newsfeed on their cell, and again next day with a video ad when they are checking something else out on their tablet.

Forbes contributor, Michelle Greenwald,  selected her choice of best adaption of new technologies by brick and mortar stores. Panera Bread, for instance, has rolled out 8 tablets in each store to speed up customer ordering, redeploying cashiers to delivery.

And for several reasons, holiday prices have been dropping fast. “More than anything, perhaps,” notes NRF’s Jack Kleinhenz, “is that consumers have become conditioned to expect discounts and promotions.”

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Purchasing: Buying that special present

Feeling like you still have a ton of shopping to do? You’re not alone.

NRF research in the WSJ projects that up to 40% of the holiday shipping will take place in the 10 days before Christmas, as customers play Chicken with retailers in order to leverage last-minute discount prices.

And there’s less time being spent on finding that present for someone you don’t know well. Christopher Stancombe from Capgemini shows how Amazon can be used as Santa’s little helper. Search for something you know the person likes in Amazon and see what comes back under the ‘customers who bought this also bought…’ section. Voila, search over.

Christopher also comes up with three other creative uses of the Amazon site to create wish lists, avoid treks around stores, and cut wrapping and delivery time for your Christmas goodies.

Consumers are waiting for the last minute for big discounts

Image: Yutaka Seki, via Flickr

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Receiving: Opening that special present

Your children might think that Christmas has always been the same. But a new BBC two-part TV program covers how the traditional British Christmas has changed over six decades. Kind of like the movie Groundhog Day, one family reenacts a typical Christmas Day from each decade.

It starts with the 1940s, and deprivations necessitated by of a supply chain diverted by the war effort. Each decade brings technological change, from the advent of intensive farming for bringing turkey to the 1960s Christmas dinner table to the affluent 1990s, affording an abundance of gift-giving and festivities.

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