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Yodel warns of delays for Christmas parcel deliveries

Company, which handles parcels on behalf of major retailers, says deliveries could take three days more than planned

Fears of a Christmas parcels logjam have escalated, with Yodel, the UK’s biggest delivery company after Royal Mail, admitting that it has stopped collecting parcels from retailers as it struggles to deliver the vast volume of online present shopping.

After frantic spending on Black Friday at the end of November – when 24-hour promotions pushed sales 50% higher than expected – and the festive rush in online orders that peaked on Monday, shoppers now face a wait to see if gifts and parcels arrive in time for Christmas. Yesterday, as it halted parcel pickups, Yodel said deliveries were taking three days longer than had been planned.

The delivery company, which works for retailers including Amazon, Argos, Boots and Tesco Direct, and delivers to every postcode in the country, blamed poor forecasting by retailers for its difficulties.

The firm has told many of its retail clients that it will not be collecting parcels until next week, as it attempts to deal with the backlog. In a letter sent to retailers, Yodel’s executive chairman, Dick Stead, said: “This is not a decision that we have taken lightly but one that we have had to take to protect service levels.” Yodel claims to make deliveries for 85% of the UK’s retailers.

A message to customers awaiting deliveries, posted on the firm’s website, warns: “We are continuing to receive extremely high numbers of parcels as a result of the seasonal sales. We’re working hard to get your orders to you asap, but some may experience a slight delay in arriving.”

Yodel’s joint venture with PayPoint, CollectPlus, which lets consumers collect or return shopping orders via local stores, is also telling customers to expect possible delays of up to three days.

The unexpectedly high demand has wrongfooted retailers including Tesco and Marks & Spencer; the latter admitted this week that it was struggling to clear backlogs of orders after Black Friday. Customers have also reported that internet retailers such as Amazon have been forced to amend next-day delivery pledges.

Yodel, which was named Britain’s worst delivery service in a poll of 9,000 readers this year, has told its larger clients that they may have a collection on Friday. Argos said that deliveries to its customers would not be affected, although those wanting to return unwanted goods would be impacted.

Having sustained a barrage of criticism for delayed deliveries in 2012, Yodel claimed to have put plans in place ready for a surge in deliveries. It was expecting to handle 15% more parcels than last Christmas but, despite investing in another 13 handling sites, sourcing an extra 200 vehicles to ship goods from client warehouses to its own sorting centres and extending working hours, it appears to be currently unable to meet demand.

The company said in a statement: “The recent, well documented Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other retail promotions have resulted in unexpectedly high parcel volumes across the carrier industry. On these key days we have experienced volumes that were up to 26% over the forecast from our clients.

“We would like to reassure consumers that there is no suspension to our delivery service. We are working with all our clients to manage the flow of fresh parcels into our network. Deliveries will continue throughout this period, but some may experience short delays of between 24-72 hours. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”

The firm added: “We are working closely with our clients on their forecast parcel volumes and we are confident that the action we are taking will ensure that normal service is resumed after the weekend.”

The transport and logistics industries called on the government recently to tackle a critical shortage of drivers, with hauliers struggling to match rates paid by supermarkets to secure deliveries of stock ahead of the biggest season for consumption.

Source : Gwyn Topham - The Guardian

12 December 2014

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