Black Friday 2014 turned from a retailer’s dream to a delivery nightmare as overwhelming demand crashed many UK websites and snapped supply chains – is it set to happen again this year? Should it be cancelled?
Home delivery firm ParcelHero is forecasting an £8.49bn monster Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend. It warns that stores must learn from the disaster of Black Friday 2014 or delivery chains could snap once again this year.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says online sales are already up 53% YOY, because of the impact of the pandemic. Add the surge in demand created by the Black Friday sales extravaganza and he fears we could be in for a repeat of the now-infamous 2014 delivery traumas.
We believe Black Friday 2020 must either be halted in its tracks or spread through the first two weeks of December to give retailers’ delivery partners a fighting chance. In France, Amazon and other major stores have just agreed to postpone Black Friday sales until December when France’s own lockdown ends. Why can’t the same happen here?
Brits spent a huge £5.55bn on Black Friday-Cyber Monday bargains last year. With Covid creating a base level of demand for online sales some 53% higher YOY, we are looking at an £8.49bn online event this November. That might be a dream for retailers, but it could quickly turn into a nightmare for their courier partners and could propel us back to the mess that was Black Friday 2014.
Last year, 387 million of the 462 million Christmas peak deliveries were online shopping orders. This year, retailers’ deliveries alone will put an estimated 592 million parcels in the system in the weeks before Christmas. Due to Black Friday, this Mount Everest of Christmas peaks will spike between 27-30 November – still inside the critical lockdown period in England.
It really does seem the black cloud of Black Friday 2014 is rolling in once more. The date 28 November 2014 is seared in the memories of many retailers and delivery companies – not to mention their customers.
As Black Friday 2014 dawned, there were early scuffles in High Street stores, with Asda customers reportedly snatching products from other shoppers. The Tesco Extra at Silverburn, Glasgow, was forced to shut for some hours after fighting broke out amongst shoppers desperate for a bargain.
As a result, huge numbers of consumers decided enough was enough, abandoned the scrum and hit the internet. Black Friday shoppers spent a then-record £810m online.
The problem was that no-one was prepared for this scale of online ordering. Nearly one in three (31%) online shoppers experienced problems with their orders that Christmas, 49% suffered from missed deliveries due to overstretched companies’ erratic delivery patterns, while 45% experienced late deliveries or never received their goods.
The spike in online orders caught many of the UK’s most respected brands off-guard. The likes of AO.com, M&S, River Island, Currys-PC World, Shop Direct and Debenhams all admitted to disruptions to their delivery networks in fulfilling the record amount of orders.
What was a struggle for retailers became a pitched battle for delivery companies. Yodel was forced to stop picking up parcels from retailers as it struggled under the weight of demand.
Even the e-commerce leader Amazon found itself very overstretched. It’s widely believed that this was the reason Amazon was forced into creating its own Amazon Logistics arm. Amazon now delivers between 7-10% of all UK parcels at Christmas.
Black Friday 2020 has all the hallmarks of 2014. Delivery networks are already at full capacity and then some. Black Friday could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Either retailers must stagger bargains throughout December or their delivery partners are going to have to borrow Santa’s sleigh. Otherwise, this Black Friday will have many shoppers seeing red.
Given the strain on delivery services during the Christmas period, we are expecting to see retailers bring their final order dates forward as Christmas nears.