Black Friday parcel meltdown warning

File photo dated 17/12/13 of Royal Mail staff sorting Christmas parcels at Nottingham Mail Centre in Beeston. Royal Mail has announced a rise in annual profits after revenues growth from parcel deliveries more than offset a further decline in letter volumes.PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday May 22, 2014. See PA story CITY Mail. Photo credit should read: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

File photo dated 17/12/13 of Royal Mail staff sorting Christmas parcels at Nottingham Mail Centre in Beeston. Royal Mail has announced a rise in annual profits after revenues growth from parcel deliveries more than offset a further decline in letter volumes.PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday May 22, 2014. See PA story CITY Mail. Photo credit should read: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

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Businesses that sell online are being urged to prepare now to avoid a repeat of last year’s Black Friday meltdown - when couriers were swamped by 10m parcels.

The American day of discounts went viral in the UK last year, resulting in a surprise 38 per cent rise in online orders, suspended deliveries and missed deadlines.

Even ‘e-tailers’ who played no part in the promotion came into work the next day to find double the usual number of orders, according to Mark Rosenberg, managing director of Parcelhub, which has a depot in Dinnington.

Now courier firms are urging sellers to try to forecast volumes so they can prepare for demand.

Up to four times as many orders are expected on this year’s Black Friday, November 27, and parcel volumes are expected to increase by 15 per cent on last year.

It is followed by two sales spikes - Cyber Monday on November 30 and Manic Monday on December 7 - worth £1.2bn last year.

Meanwhile, the industry is still trying to absorb the extra business - some 2,000 UK deliveries a day - following the collapse of City Link on Christmas Eve last year, he added.

“It’s a timebomb waiting to happen. Last year sales went crazy and carriers weren’t prepared at all, they were inundated.

“Retailers need to start talking to their delivery partners about their predicted volumes so there is time to plan and put on extra vehicles and shifts.

“A lot of them fell over last year and they are determined not to let it happen again.

“We need forecasts now, once agreed it’s up to the courier to make sure they have capacity. By mid October they will be much harder to negotiate.”

Many big retailers will be pushing ‘click and collect’ - order online and collect instore - to ease the problem, he added.

The UK is second only to the US for ecommerce, which has experienced double digit growth for years. Some £9.3bn was spent online in June, an 18 per cent rise on the previous year, Rosenberg added.