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Retailers pull back Christmas delivery dates to avoid lockdown logjam

Gaelle Walker
16 November 2020

UK Retailers are reining in their final online order dates in a bid to help shoppers avoid missing the crucial Christmas parcel delivery window, as the threat of a “lockdown logjam” looms over this year’s festive season.

Announcing the comeback of its popular Christmas deadline tool, e-commerce delivery expert ParcelHero said that the recent trend towards ever-later Christmas final order dates would be reversed this year, as pandemic-hit delivery networks struggled to cope with a 53% rise in volumes before Christmas orders had even begun.

This year a large number of retailers were “playing things much safer,” by pulling deadlines back from last year’s extremes to avoid gifts arriving late, ParcelHero said.

Liberty and Selfridges have set some of the earliest deadlines at 15 and 17 December respectively and several retailers have already cautioned that dates may be pulled back further, if their courier partners become any further stretched, it added

Commenting on the findings, ParcelHero head of consumer research David Jinks MILT said:  “Liberty told us that if, for any reason, lockdown were to extend to mid-December, they would no longer be able to offer express shipping.  

“We agree that any further strain on delivery chains, such as an extended lockdown or snow, could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“Since March, retailers and couriers have been battling with what is, effectively, a perpetual Christmas peak.  

“Once the “real” Christmas season arrives, retailers and their delivery partners will be stretched to near-breaking point,” Jinks added.

Last year, 387m of the 462m Christmas peak deliveries were online shopping orders.

This year, retailers’ deliveries alone will put an estimated 592m parcels in the system in the weeks before Christmas according to ParcelHero.

“That’s in addition to all the parcels people are sending to their friends and relations during lockdown,” Jinks said.

However, not all retailers are being cautious in their ordering deadlines, with several, including Amazon, Net-a-Porter and Zara all planning to “push the delivery envelope as far as possible,” with deadlines of 24 December.

Christmas Eve same-day deliveries look highly ambitious this year,” Jinks added. “Only Amazon has control over its deliveries because it owns Amazon Logistics, which now delivers around 10% of all UK parcels.

"Other retailers are very optimistic in planning for same-day express deliveries on Christmas Eve, though this date is achievable for in-store collection – assuming non-essential stores are open.

ASOS has gone with a more cautious date of 23 December, as have many other online retailers. However, this could still be too late and we’d go with 21 December as the latest deadline for ordering anything online in time for Christmas. Harvey Nicks and Ikea have also plumped for this date.

“Given the strain on delivery services already, we won’t be at all surprised if retailers change to even earlier final order dates as Christmas nears,” Jinks added.

Live now, ParcelHero’s Christmas shopping online tool shows the final online ordering dates of key UK stores. View it here at https://www.parcelhero.com/events/christmas-gifts-delivery
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