Could this year be the busiest Christmas period for courier companies yet? What are the threats?

As a nation, we are becoming increasingly dependent on postage and delivery with 2.6 billion packages sent during 2018/19. This is a huge increase from just 1.7 billion parcels per year before 2015 (Statista).

Estimates suggest that online sales are 50% higher this year compared to last year (ParcelHero). As a result of this present trend we can only expect seasonal peaks to hit the parcel and courier services hard.

Christmas is undisputedly the busiest time of the year for courier companies in the UK. However, this year we have the added impact of COVID-19… We explore some of the issues retailers and courier companies might face in the run up to Christmas.


The impact of ‘stay at home’

With the upcoming new lockdown keeping us at home for the next month, the demand for deliveries is naturally only going to grow. During the first lockdown, online shopping was essential to ensure individuals could get groceries plus essential and non-essential items whilst we stayed home to control the virus.

Many of us have realised the convenience, speed and simplicity of online shopping and shoppers of all-ages have changed their habits.

What’s more, irrespective of the new lockdown rules, shoppers aren’t actually keen on shopping in-store this Christmas period. Stats show that 71% of UK shoppers are reluctant to shop in-store this Christmas, with 56% stating they expect to do more online shopping this year than previous years (Klarna and Retail Economics).


of shoppers are reluctant to shop instore


will do more online shopping than previous years

With just over 7 weeks to go until Christmas day and a lockdown looking to stick around for at least 4 weeks, there’s no doubt we’ll have to move online to do Christmas shopping. This will create a huge pressure on existing operations for this time of year.
Busy courier company delivery driver

What are courier companies doing about it?

As a result, Royal Mail have doubled the number of Christmas temp jobs required this year to 33,000 from late October. Before this year, Parcelforce, Royal Mail Group’s express parcel business, opened 15,000 – 23,000 jobs during the festive period. A full break down of the different jobs required can be found here.

There’s no doubt that other courier firms or parcel and postage companies will be doing the same. For example, Yodel has announced it will create 2,950 new jobs over this Christmas period (Yahoo! Finance). Plus, Amazon stepped up their hiring to take on 7,000 new seasonal positions (The Guardian).

Are retailers and parcel delivery companies actually ready?

In the consumers eyes, retailers and parcel delivery companies have had over six months to figure out the points of friction and the necessary solutions should be in place to avoid any problems.

It’s been clear that retailers who excel at online order and deliveries have come out with huge gains rather than detrimental losses over this period. Most notably, Amazon have confirmed that net sales grew 37% year-on-year worldwide, leading to a massive $96 billion over Q3 2020 (Amazon). In contrast, explore the long list of companies that have gone bust during 2019/20 undoubtably influenced by COVID-19 (Retail Research).

Therefore, parcel delivery companies must make sure they can provide their services without any problems to keep our retailers alive. They must promise to deliver all parcels safely and in a timely manner, and not to lose anything along the way.

A useful insight

Head of Consumer Research at ParcelHero, David Jinks MILT warns of a difficult period ahead:

‘‘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. Nearly one in three (31%) 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.”

UK high street closed due to COVID-19

Parcel delivery companies must take responsibility

Lost parcels may seem like an exception to the norm when it comes to courier companies. However, during the 2018 Christmas period, 6 in 10 online shoppers reported an issue with their delivery (Which?).

In 2016, Citizens Advice reported that UK consumers had 4.8 million delivery problems over Christmas, leading to 11.8 million hours spent trying to resolve them. “Consumers who were not compensated were out of pocket by an average of £30 a parcel due to damaged or lost goods, hours wasted and time away from work” (BBC News). The most common problem reported was being unable to get through to the delivery company to get the issue sorted.

As much as parcel companies can ‘apologise during these difficult times’, it’s essential that they take ownership of the problem of lost parcels and find new ways to remove any pain associated with the problem. Otherwise retailers risk losing even more customers during to a poor and unreliable experience.

6 in 10 shoppers reported an issue with their Christmas delivery

How can this problem be solved?

We know parcel delivery companies have not found a simple but robust solution to manage the issue of lost parcels. It’s a tough thing to tackle. However, it’s clear that removing any friction in the lost parcel process is incredibly important for reducing stress and anxiety for both your customers and staff.

This could be through improved communication routes for consumers, a clearer process for when post is undeliverable and a software that helps track post so lost post is found easier.

There is still time for organisations to do something about their operations. NotLost are eager to work closely with courier companies or postal services of any size to help eliminate the added issue of lost post during this challenging time.

In summary

Christmas this year is going to be very different than any before. Postal, delivery and courier services are going to be under more pressure than they ever have been before. This is as a result of the new COVID-19 lockdown rules for November – December plus the 50% increase in online shopping seen in the festive period.

Therefore, parcel delivery companies must ensure their services run as smoothly as possible to give retailers the best chance to thrive this festive season. As a result, consumers are happy with the services and can be stress-free during this holiday season we’ve never experienced before.

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