Black Friday is reshaping supply chains

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Anyone looking for Black Friday disaster stories will have been disappointed. There have been no reports of major delivery failures or crowds fighting over bargains in stores.

Malory Davies, Editor.

It rather suggests that the strategies for managing the huge spike in demand are working – the sale period has been spread out to more than a week and delivery capacity has grown to meet the demand.

Black Friday online spending was up 11.7 per cent to £1.39 billion, according to IMRG, while Metapack has reported that deliveries over the cyber weekend were 26 per cent up on last year.

John Lewis reported a 7.2 per cent increase in sales – its biggest ever week. The Magna Park centre saw a record day on Sunday when it processed 54 per cent more units than the equivalent day in 2016. Across the weekend, it packed on average nearly 13,000 units per hour across our network. On Black Friday itself, the use of the John Lewis App between 12am and 8am increased by 36.8 per cent and during its busiest ever hour for online sales from 9-10am, an average of 705 units were purchased per minute on

Hermes says it handled 4.8 million parcels over the Black Friday weekend, making it the busiest to date. To meet the demand it could call upon its new £31m Rugby hub plus 85 additional sub-depots. It recruited an extra 4,500 temporary self-employed couriers and added 490 trailers, 230 additional depot vehicles and 160 tractor units to its vehicle fleet.

Royal Mail has opened six dedicated parcel sort centres and recruited an additional 20,000 temporary staff to support its seasonal operation.

What is clear is that the big winner of Black Friday week was online, while the high street saw little benefit.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Sales of non-food products that week were over 40 per cent higher than in the other weeks of the month, while it was the biggest week ever for non-food products online. However, rather than increasing overall sales, the event has shifted spending away from other parts of the festive period, and focuses shoppers’ attentions online and away from stores.”

In fact, Paul Martin KPMG’s head of UK retail, has suggested that “retailers are increasingly moving Black Friday away from the high street”.

The net effect of all this is to hasten the reconfiguration of supply chains away from the high street and towards online. Managing that process will continue to be a challenge for retailers and their logistics partners long after this Black Friday has been forgotten.

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