Surge in Black Friday online sales threaten delivery meltdown

Rocketing Black Friday online sales threaten to cause a delivery meltdown over Christmas as an extra 200m orders are expected, experts warn

  • A surge in online shopping amid the pandemic has boosted Black Friday sales
  • Experts warn that there are not enough packers, drivers and vans to cope because the bargain day falls during England’s second national lockdown
  • The Royal Mail and couriers are taking on thousands of staff to meet demand

An extraordinary surge in Black Friday internet shopping is threatening to cause a delivery meltdown, experts have warned.

An additional 200million online orders are expected in the run-up to Christmas this year – 50 per cent more than last year – as purchases online overtake those on the high street for the first time.

And huge discounts of up to 90 per cent have been offered this weekend by internet stores such as Boohoo, which are mopping up sales while traditional fashion chains have been closed.

A tidal wave of online orders is expected in the four days up to ‘Cyber Monday’, putting millions of items into the courier system.

However, industry experts worry there are not enough packers, drivers and vans to cope because the Black Friday weekend – described as the ‘Mount Everest of Christmas peaks’ – falls in lockdown.

An additional 200million online orders are expected in the run-up to Christmas this year – 50 per cent more than last year – as purchases online overtake those on the high street for the first time [Stock image]

Industry experts worry there are not enough packers, drivers and vans to cope with the surge in purchases because the Black Friday weekend – described as the ‘Mount Everest of Christmas peaks’ – falls in lockdown. Pictured: An Amazon fulfilment centre in 2015 [File photo]

There are fears the country could see a repeat of the chaos of 2014 when online stores were shocked by a sudden jump in orders from shoppers trying to avoid the queues, jostling and shoving on the high street.

David Jinks, of courier service ParcelHero, said: ‘Black Friday could unleash an £8.49billion monster, creating major delivery bottlenecks.

‘Delivery networks are already at full capacity and then some. Black Friday could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.’

Explaining the 200million extra online orders this year, he added: ‘Last year, 387million of the 462million Christmas peak deliveries were online shopping orders. This year, retailers’ deliveries alone will put an estimated 592million parcels in the system in the weeks before Christmas.

‘Due to Black Friday, this Mount Everest of Christmas peaks will spike between November 27-30 – still inside the critical lockdown period in England. It really does seem the black cloud of Black Friday 2014 is rolling in once more.’

Royal Mail is taking on 33,000 seasonal workers, Amazon UK is recruiting 20,000 staff, Hermes 13,000 and Yodel 3,000, but Mr Jinks fears this will not be enough to meet demand.

He said it would have been better if online retailers had delayed the Black Friday event until after the lockdown ended next week to spread demand.

In France, Amazon and other major stores agreed to postpone Black Friday sales until December when France’s own lockdown ends. 

Mr Jinks said: ‘Brits spent a huge £5.55billion on Black Friday-Cyber Monday bargains last year. 

‘With Covid creating a base level of demand for online sales some 53 per cent higher year on year, we are looking at an £8.49billion online event this November.

‘That might be a dream for retailers, but it could quickly turn into a nightmare for their courier partners and could propel us back to the mess that was Black Friday 2014.’

In 2014, there were scuffles in high street stores as bargain hunters battled over cheap TVs. As a result, many abandoned the scrum and hit the internet instead.

Mr Jinks said the rush that year caught many of the UK’s most respected brands off guard.

In 2014, there were scuffles in high street stores as bargain hunters battled over cheap TVs. As a result, many abandoned the scrum and hit the internet instead [File photo]

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