The countdown to peak has begun

21st July 2017

Summer may be upon us, but Ashley Walker, Head of Operations Development at Hermes, is getting ready for retail’s busiest season.

Black Friday is now overtaking Christmas as retail’s seasonal peak.

Ecstatic children across the UK are now looking forward to six long weeks off for summer. However, I can guarantee that many working in the retail and home delivery sectors are already gearing up for the winter months.

Black Friday is now just four months away. While most of the population focuses on sunscreen and swimming pools, industry stalwarts remain committed to sales projections and significant logistical planning.

Black Friday: the new peak

In fact, industry association IMRG and ecommerce consultancy Salmon recently published their Black Friday and Christmas Preview 2017, which should make for interesting holiday reading.

This year, Salmon predicts, “online sales during November will surpass December, with UK shoppers spending £20bn online in November and £7bn spent over the seven days of Black Friday week”.

This prediction is supported by the view of IMRG editor, Andy Mulcahy. “When we talk about Christmas peak in retail, these days we tend to mean Black Friday,” he explains.

“Or at least the Black Friday period, to be more accurate. There are other peaks, of course, but that’s become the one that really matters for many.”

“When we talk about Christmas peak in retail, these days we tend to mean Black Friday. Or at least the Black Friday period” Andy Mulcahy, IMRG

James Webster, Salmon’s head of managed services, backs up this point.

He reveals that data from the company’s own operations centre shows “the Black Friday period (November 22 to 28) was significantly busier than peak trading at Christmas (December 21 to 27), with 28% more orders taken than during the festive period”.

When I analyse our own activity from last year’s peak, I can see similar trends.

For instance, Hermes handled more than 36 million parcels between Black Friday and the New Year.

However, our busiest day was Friday December 2 – a week after Black Friday – when we processed more than 1.56 million parcels in one night alone.

Preparation is key

Regardless of whether Black Friday or Christmas is the busier spike, we can all agree that extensive preparation is vital to enjoy a successful end to the year.

Our peak planning and delivery team – named Team of the Year at the 2016 Motor Transport Awards – has already made fantastic strides as we work closely with clients to ensure everything runs to plan.

“The Black Friday period was significantly busier than peak trading at Christmas, with 28% more orders taken than during the festive period” James Webster, Salmon.

In addition, we are putting the finishing touches to our £31m state-of-the-art automated parcel distribution hub located in Rugby.

This will increase our overall parcel processing capacity by 45% – and we look forward to sharing more information on this development later this summer.

Over the past few years, both the retail and logistics industries have done a fantastic job by working together to adapt to the phenomenal rise of Black Friday and a huge growth in online shopping volumes.

However, it is now more important than ever that we do not rest on our laurels as we head towards another enthralling peak.