Online Christmas puts focus on delivery

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The shift in shopping from the high street to online is highlighted in the Christmas figures from retailers and analysts and has put the focus firmly on delivery quality with one UK newspaper suggesting that 225,000 parcels a day failed to arrive as promised during the festive period.

Both credit agency Experian and accountancy firm BDO reported a 30 per cent rise on online sales in the run-up to Christmas. And Boxing Day hit a new record for online sales with 113 million visits to retail web sites – up 17 per cent on the year before, said Experian.

In contrast, BDO’s high street sales tracker showed that December sales were up 1.9 per cent. however, BDO pointed out that this was better than seemed likely in the week before Christmas (ending 16 December) when sales dipped 3.7 per cent year-on-year.

Non-fashion was the strongest sector, with growth of 7.1 per cent thanks to increased sales of Christmas ‘gifting’ items from well-established brands and department stores, and luxury items once discounting started.

Experian also highlighted sales “creep” with many post-Christmas sales actually starting before Christmas.

iForce reported that across the whole of Christmas Peak (1st October – 31st December), orders dispatched were up 12.3 per cent with items up 23 per cent at 6 million.

iForce’s busiest week was the week commencing 9th December during which it dispatched 260,000 orders, up 31 per cent year on year.

Across its combined client base, the biggest online fulfilment day over the Christmas period was Tuesday 18th December with 150,000 items sent out.

In an article entitled “The great online delivery scandal”, The Independent newspaper calculated that 225,000 parcels a day were not being delivered as promised during the Christmas period. It quoted consumer champion Martin Lewis as saying that retailers needed to put delivery firms under more pressure.

Parcel carrier Yodel said it handled more than 14 million parcels in between the 1st and 24th of December. The carrier said it recruited temporary workers earlier to ensure extended training, boosting its peak workforce to 16,000, and deliveries were increased to seven days a week to cope with the additional parcel volumes throughout December.

Retailer performance:

Next: Sales at Next Retail for the period 1st November to 24th December were up 0.8 per cent on last year. Next Directory sales for the same period were up 11.2 per cent. The company said: “Total stock for our End of Season Sale was down 8.2 per cent on last year. The Sale has started well. We expect final clearance rates will be in line with last year and our internal estimates. Stock levels continue to be carefully controlled and we start the new year with less stock in the business than last year.”

John Lewis & Waitrose: Waitrose reported a 37 per cent rise on online grocery sales for the festive period compared to a 7.7 per cent rise in branch sales. John Lewis said takings totalled £684.8m for the five weeks to 29 December, and the period included three weeks of record pre-Christmas sales. Online sales now account for a quarter of John Lewis’s total business.

Morrisons: Morrisons said the Christmas period had been challenging with total sales down 0.9 per cent for the six weeks to 30 December. Like for like sales were down 2.5 per cent. The company said: “This reflects both the need to improve our promotional innovation and the communication of our points of difference, as we highlighted in November, and the accelerating importance of other channels, such as online and convenience, which Morrisons has only recently entered.”

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