Christmas 2020 could be 50% busier than last year, but a 30% shortfall in drivers and warehouse workers could overwhelm overstretched supply chains.
That’s the warning from ParcelHero as the UK’s delivery firms already struggle to meet unprecedented demand from the boom in online sales, fuelled by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
CitySprint has announced that it will recruit more than 750 additional couriers across the UK, ahead of this year’s Christmas rush.
Work will be available across all 30-plus CitySprint sites throughout the UK, with extra demand in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Southampton.
The business is seeking a wide range of vehicles — including small vans, large vans (including refrigerated models), push bikes and cargo bikes.
Mark Footman, operations director at CitySprint, said: “The festive season is one of the most important times of the year for our clients, with delivery volumes increasing across our business. “This year, with the demand for festive home deliveries expected to be even higher than normal, we’re making sure the courier fleet is ready to face anything that comes our way.”
Meanwhile, First 4 Logistics, part of The APC network, has opened a new operational parcel depot at Beach Road, Newhaven. The opening comes following significant growth for the business, spurred by a huge surge in online shopping across Brighton and East Sussex amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new depot provides 17,000 square feet of warehouse space, an increase of 10,000 square feet compared with its previous site in Newhaven. This additional space will allow the company to expand its overnight parcel collection and delivery service offerings to local businesses across all BN and TN21 postcodes, enabling local SMES to service a national customer base.
Jonathan Smith, chief executive at APC Overnight, said: “Whilst many industries have seen considerable downturns as a result of the pandemic, the logistics industry continues to expand as consumers have found new ways of sourcing products they depend upon.
“The increase in online ordering has meant that businesses have had to rely heavily on carriers to get these items delivered.”
With recent announcements from the Government of a further tightening of measures being put in place in the run up to Christmas, The APC’s focus on a national level is now turning towards peak - and preparations for what is likely to be a record-breaking period of online shopping - predicting year-on-year growth of up to 20%.
DPD announced in the summer that it was recruiting 6,000 new staff, including 3,500 drivers, in response to an unprecedented boom in online shopping caused by Covid-19.
The delivery firm is investing £200 million this year to expand its next its next-day parcel capacity, including £100m on vehicles, £60m on 15 new regional depots (10 more than originally planned in 2020) and the remainder on technology.
ParcelHero is warning a probable record online Christmas will double deliveries for many retailers and potentially snap overstretched supply chains.
ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks, says the double-whammy of families, separated by Covid-19 restrictions, mailing their gifts, plus a shortage of skilled drivers created by Brexit, could prove a mountain too high to climb.
He explained: “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. Retailers may need to radically shake up their Christmas distribution plans.
Despite a partial pick-up of High Street store sales in recent months, online sales are still over 50% higher compared to a year ago.
Jinks continued: “Christmas success is always balanced on a knife edge. 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.
“Nearly one in three online shoppers experienced problems with their orders that Christmas, 49% suffered from missed deliveries due to overstretched companies’ erratic delivery patterns, while 45% experienced late deliveries or never received their goods.
“There’s no doubt the problems of Christmas 2014 could be repeated this year if retailers underestimate the scale of the challenge.”
Berry Recruitment, one of the largest temporary worker suppliers in the country, says demand for delivery drivers is running at 30% above supply.
It believes a combination of a huge increase in online ordering and fewer European workers has created a perfect storm. “This view is supported by findings from the business news service Quartz, which analysed data from the Government’s Office of National Statistics and found around a quarter of a million people from the EU have left the UK economy since the start of the year, because of the impact of both Covid and Brexit,” said Jinks.
“Can the crisis be averted? This year, Yodel seems determined not to repeat the experience of 2014 and has announced it will create 2,950 new jobs to handle volumes during the Christmas peak.
“Similarly, many other delivery companies have been gearing up for some time to cope with the rise in demand. Amazon is planning to create more than 20,000 seasonal and permanent positions ahead of the festive period.
“However, with supply chains stretched to breaking point, we advise online shoppers to buy their presents in good time and that everyone sends their presents with time to spare, as Britain’s couriers battle with potentially record volumes.”