Surging demand for online retail services means some firms may struggle to cope with the Christmas rush.
The online retail industry is urging consumers to get their Christmas shopping underway sooner rather than later, amidst fears that unusually high demand will place too much pressure on firms, leading to stock shortages, swamped websites and delayed deliveries.
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have seen shoppers take to the internet like never before, resulting in a 40-50% growth in online shopping, according to IMRG, the industry body for online retailers. Even before the pandemic, in the first couple of months of 2020, online sales were reportedly up 5% compared to the same time last year.
"We think the volumes are going to be really very excessive this year," said Andy Mulcahy from IMRG. "Whilst that in itself is not a problem, getting too much of it too close to Christmas is going to be a bit of a problem. If you can spread out your shopping and do quite a lot of it in November, maybe even a bit of it now, then that would really help."
Andy also warns that the retail industry can expect an increase of around 30% during the Christmas shopping season, and says that if stores are once again forced to shutter this may soar to 50%.
The delivery company Yodel is bracing itself for the surge in demand by adding 2,500 self-employed drivers and nearly 500 staff to its sorting centres across the UK, as it anticipates handling 1m extra parcels during its busiest week.
Elsewhere, retailers are also adapting. John Lewis opened its Christmas shop in August following a spike in searches, and says online sales of trees and decorations are already significantly up on 2019. And as reported by Toy World yesterday, Amazon has also moved its Prime Day to October, which may kick start the Christmas shopping period for many.