Business Transformation

3 Ways Subscription Box Owners Can Plan Ahead to Avoid Supply Chain Issues

Curating a subscription box starts with truly knowing your ideal customer. Once you have a clear picture of who your subscription box is for, choosing the perfect items to go inside it is much easier. But what happens when supply chain issues mean you can’t get those perfect items when you need them? 

You may have experienced supply chain issues prior to 2020, but even if you didn’t then, you are now. The global pandemic has shown us how fragile our supply chains are.  Realize that although supply chain issues will challenge you and your business, they should not stop you from starting or growing your subscription box. You can still have a thriving business. You can overcome supply chain issues. It’s all about problem solving, pivoting and having a plan. 

Let’s talk about three things you can do now that will help you manage supply chain issues when they come up. 

  1. Work further out on buying and sourcing goods.
    Avoid just-in-time planning and buying. I teach subscription box owners to plan six months of boxes at a time. Planning ahead allows you to curate an outstanding experience for your subscribers and prevent the stress and headaches caused by last-minute ordering.

    This is especially important if you source products from overseas. I have certainly experienced long delays with overseas shipments over the past two years. I almost expect them now and plan accordingly.

    Problem solve shipping delays before they happen. Have backup plans for your backup plans and get in front of problems whenever possible. If you do run into an unexpected delay, planning ahead gives you time to pivot and problem solve.

  2. Take advantage of “ready to ship” options
    Many overseas manufacturers maintain warehouses in the United States. This means items you need for your subscription box, or something very similar, could be available and ship to you quickly.

    Plan ahead and be proactive by identifying which manufacturers have in country warehouses. When it’s time to problem solve and pivot, you’ll be ready with a list of possible solutions.

  3. Connect with makers and other small businesses
    One silver lining of the supply chain challenges has been discovering new vendors and building new relationships. When I went to Market earlier this year, I was disappointed to see my go-to vendors, the people I’d worked with for many seasons, had largely the same merchandise they had last year. They were still waiting on shipments of the new items they’d ordered.

    Instead of being disappointed in what I couldn’t find, I decided to branch out and get curious. I went into vendor shops I’d never visited. I discovered new products and started building new relationships.

    There are makers and small business owners who are ready and able to meet your product needs. Now is the perfect time to reach out to start conversations with them. Discover what products they offer at what cost and in what timeframe. You’ll likely find new items you – and your subscribers – will love.

Current supply chain issues mean you will be faced with not being able to get an item you’ve chosen for your subscription box in time. Building up your network of makers and small business owners gives you more options when the need to troubleshoot and problem solve a sourcing or supply chain issue comes up.  

Supply chain issues happen. Right now, it looks like they’ll continue to happen for quite a while. This means you need to get comfortable dealing with supply chain issues and delivery delays. Plan ahead, identify suppliers who can ship quickly, and create new relationships with makers and local small business owners. 

If delays mean your subscription box will be late, be honest with your subscribers. You’ve built a relationship with them. Thank them for their patience and understanding and take the opportunity to add a little surprise and delight. I recently included a gift card for subscribers to use in my online store – they loved it and felt appreciated.


Written by Sarah Williams.

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Sarah Williams
Sarah Williams is the CEO and founder of two 7-figure businesses, Framed by Sarah and Launch Your Box, where she has mentored more than 4,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses on how to start, launch and grow their subscription box businesses. Her own boxes are booming, serving 3,000 monthly customers with three options. Sarah also hosts the Launch Your Box podcast, where she focuses on strategies, tactics and problem-solving as well as addressing mindset issues that can stand in the way of success.


Sarah Williams is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.