Oct 6, 2020
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Xmas e-tail could see biggest ever online peak, but late deliveries a problem

Oct 6, 2020

The growth of online shopping due Ito the pandemic could create a perfect storm for retailers this Christmas season with a delivery specialist predicting the “Mount Everest of Christmas peaks”.

UK Christmas shopping is expected to migrate online but late deliveries will be a problem - Photo: Pexels/Public domain

ParcelHero said e-tailers and couriers “are experiencing record peak volumes and many are stretched to full capacity” already. But it added that “the worst is yet to come as Christmas 2020 could be 50% busier than last year”.

Black Friday and Christmas are always busy periods for e-tailers with recent years having seen UK shoppers turning online in greater numbers than usual for their festive shopping.

But the pandemic has driven an even greater shift to e-tail and ParcelHero is expecting the usual number of deliveries to roughly double. It said this will “potentially snap overstretched supply chains”.

That’s a major problem for retailers as the inability to meet delivery promises has been a big negative in the past few years that has eroded customer loyalty and dented new customer acquisition.

It’s still unclear how forgiving consumers will be this year. They may know the pressure that retail is under but their tempers tend to fray when parcels don’t arrive on time.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks, said the double-whammy of families, separated by Covid restrictions, mailing their gifts, plus a shortage of skilled drivers created by Brexit, “could prove a mountain too high to climb”.

And he added that the huge demand for deliveries “is being compounded by the reported loss of a quarter of a million EU nationals from the UK economy this year, which will lead to a 30% shortfall in drivers and warehouse workers”.

“Even though many retailers and delivery companies are attempting to hire thousands more staff in preparation for this year’s Christmas peak, this might be difficult to do in practice,” he said. “Retailers may need to radically shake up their Christmas distribution plans”.

At the moment, online sales remain more than 50% higher compared to a year ago, despite the reopening of physical shops. And ParcelHero said that it had “its busiest day ever" just last week.

The company cited the example of 2014 to show that “Christmas success is always balanced on a knife edge. As a dreadful warning, it only took an increase in the popularity of online Black Friday shopping in 2014 to cause Christmas chaos across the retail and delivery industry”.

That year, 31% of online shoppers experienced problems with their orders for the Christmas period, 49% suffered from missed deliveries due to overstretched companies’ erratic delivery patterns, and 45% experienced late deliveries or never received their goods. 

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