Tropical Storm Dorian may impact online and marketplace sellers

Tropical Storm Dorian
NASA
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Tropical Storm Dorian is moving along a path in the Caribbean that will see it impact several islands including Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

By early Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center predicts the storm will make landfall in Florida. Some computer models have it crossing the state and continuing into the Gulf of Mexico, while others show it going north along the eastern seaboard.

Tropical Storm Dorian NHC 5-Day Cone on Tuesday August 27, 2019
NOAA / National Hurricane Center

Caribbean-bound shipments

Online merchants should expect some delivery disruptions form this storm, especially for orders going to the Carribean.

Puerto Rico is a vital logistics hub for the region through which many air shipments are routed. Sellers should expect Caribbean-bound shipments to temporarily stop at US facilities until the storm passes by Puerto Rico and nearby islands.

Florida and Southeast US

As the weekend approaches and if the path of Tropical Storm Dorian still is Florida bound, carriers may elect to halt shipments into the state.

While most modern warehouses in Florida are built to hurricane building codes and a tropical storm is mostly a “rain event,” flash flooding can still occur.

Carriers will typically be cautious and keep shipments out of the projected impact zones to avoid damage or loss of shipments.

Unless there is a drastic change in the storm’s strength, most carriers should catch up with shipments by the end of next week.

Here are some additional tips for sellers, especially those that will be in the storm’s path.

If you are in the path of Tropical Storm Dorian

Your personal safety is most important. If you have time to safeguard your business, here are some tips to help you deal with this storm and handle your operations.

  • Make a video of all your inventory and upload it to the cloud. This simple precaution can be tremendously helpful when making an insurance claim for lost inventory.
  • Safeguard your accounting and business records. Again, upload to the cloud or place on a device or USB stick that is not located at your business location.
  • Scan the most critical paper records such as insurance documents, business licenses, etc. and upload to cloud storage or USB stick. All other files you can protect in trash bags or with tarps.
  • eBay, Etsy, and other marketplace sellers should place their store in vacation mode for a few days until the storm passes.
  • If you have a website, use a pop-up or place a message on the site communicating to your shoppers you are located in a potential disaster area and it could delay some shipments.
  • Remember to forward your business line to a mobile phone as most mobile operators will be up and running before landlines are back. This is very difficult to do once the landlines are down.
  • Record a voice mail message with information about your current business situation. You can also update this message as conditions warrant.
  • If you have incoming freight shipments, contact the carrier(s) and arrange for delayed delivery.
  • Cancel planned promotions such as Google keywords, ad buys, etc. if you cannot fulfill sales quickly.
  • Allow a trusted friend, remote worker, or family member outside the impacted area with access to your emails and phone. This way, they can communicate with customers if necessary.
  • And finally, secure the building you are storing inventory and business operations as best as possible. Remember to safeguard against flooding by placing computers on tables and moving inventory to higher shelves. Cover desks and computers with a tarp.

For sellers not in the storm’s path

  • If you are not located in the storm’s path, monitor shipments going into the storm area.
  • When processing shipments over the next few business days, you may wish to include a message in your emails explaining to buyers in the expected impact areas that their shipment could be delayed because of the storm.
  • Especially when sending parcels via USPS, they often will hold packages at origin points if there is a good chance of disruption in their logistics operations. Don’t be alarmed if shipments have not left your area for days. But keep track of these orders daily and keep your customers informed.

Marketplace seller ratings

eBay and other marketplaces that rate sellers based on meeting delivery expectations should monitor all shipments going to the impacted areas.

Even if the marketplace has not announced automatic protection for sellers, usually they will work with sellers to remove strikes by buyers for late shipments due to a natural disaster.

Resources

READ MORE: US Small businesses are happy with their commercial insurance


if you are in the path of Tropical Storm Dorian, how do you prepare your business for its arrival? Please use the comments section below or head over to our Facebook Group for Small Business Sellers and interact with other small business owners.

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