Capacity planning and spread of promotions key to peak season delivery success

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UK-based e-commerce fulfillment specialist ParcelHero claims that lessons have been learned by retailers and carriers from Black Friday 2014, and that a key factor of this success has been to spread promotions across the entire week.

On November 24, 2014, an unprecedented number of customers shopped online, leaving retailer websites and supply chains feeling the strain. “As shoppers fled the high street for the safety of their home and office computers, many retailers experienced record orders,” said David Jinks (left), head of consumer research for ParcelHero. “Black Friday shoppers spent a then-record £810m (US$1bn) online in the UK; creating backlogs that overloaded courier networks and crashed into the following Cyber Monday online shopping spree.

“For retailers’ sales and marketing teams it was a dream come true, but for their IT and logistics teams it became more of a nightmare. All those items moving at the same time caused multiple warehousing, web and final mile delivery issues. The huge volume of orders caught many of the UK’s most respected brands off guard. The likes of, River Island, Currys-PC World, Shop Direct and Debenhams all admitted to disruption to their delivery networks in fulfilling the record amount of orders,” he added.

One of the worst hit was Marks and Spencer, which was unable to cope with a surge of orders around its Black Friday promotion and had to entirely cancel its next-day delivery service for some time. Black Friday hit at the worst possible time for M&S as its new £200m (US$260m) distribution center at Castle Donnington had just opened in time for Christmas and was experiencing some early teething troubles.

Because of the backlog, shoppers were told that next-day store deliveries could take up to four days and that standard deliveries to customers’ homes would be within 10 days rather than three to five.

“Happily M&S thoroughly absorbed the lessons of 2014 and is now one of the best stores at getting its Black Friday online offering together,” explained Jinks. “Last year it launched its offers several days before Black Friday, smoothing the supply chain and ensuring shoppers don’t all visit the site at the same time. It’s a model a number of other retailers have successfully followed.”

Such has been the success of the strategy that last year the UK’s Black Friday online sales grew to £1.23bn (US$1.6bn), yet there was no repeat of the delivery meltdown of 2014. Jinks believes that this is because Black Friday has mutated into a whole week – with online sales from November 21 to November 28 reaching around £6.5bn (US$8.5bn).

Shoppers have responded well to the change of emphasis. A recent Accenture survey showed 44% of consumers are less motivated to shop on Black Friday because they can get as good a deal on other days during the week.

“That’s bad news for those hardened shoppers who like the mall tussle or the sheer thrill of pouncing on a deal as soon as it pops up. But for most consumers and supply chain professionals it is good news – and means the final brightening up of Black Friday,” said Jinks.

November 6, 2017

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Dan originally joined Parcel and Postal Technology International in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As online editor, he now produces daily content for the website and supports the editor with the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest technological developments, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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