In 2014, the USA’s super-discount shopping days – Black Friday and Cyber Monday – finally made it across the pond to the UK in a big way. While they may have brought delight for cash-strapped shoppers in the run-up to Christmas, the next-day delivery preferred by e-tailers put unparalleled strain on the carrier networks.

At a time of year when parcel volumes are already on the increase towards the peak period just before Christmas itself, these two shopping days – which immediately follow the US celebration of Thanksgiving in late November or early December – caused untold carnage as online shoppers everywhere scrambled for the best bargains.

But their overall impact on the parcel delivery companies could be even greater in 2015 – a combination of more aware shoppers taking advantage of the generous discounts offered by e-tailers, while potentially deliberately avoiding making purchases earlier in the usual shopping season.

Following several years of e-tailers persuading shoppers to start buying Christmas gifts sooner and sooner, it’s a step backwards, and raises questions of whether it is fair of the major website operators to deliberately concentrate consumers’ buying power on a single four-day weekend, while often offering delivery ‘perks’ like free shipping or next-day delivery.

Meanwhile, it is the third-party parcel delivery companies and couriers who are left to try and cater for this substantial spike in demand, fending off outraged customers when goods do not arrive overnight, racking up late and overdue deliveries, working longer hours to catch up, and dealing with stressed staff and the frustrations of both shoppers and the e-tailers who caused the problem in the first place.

In the absence of a magic sleigh to make unlimited deliveries overnight, is there perhaps a better way to make sure these digital Santas get all of their gifts with a greater degree of reliability – even if it means compromising on the promised delivery date?

Preventing this problem in the years to come will need the e-tailers and carriers to work together to spread the load – even if only by offering 48-hour delivery instead of giving away express next-day shipping.

Ultimately, in the run-up to Christmas, many of these bargain buys need only arrive in time to be wrapped up for December 25th, which makes the impossible task of delivering everything overnight seem even more ridiculous.

As parcel delivery companies come to terms with the capacity crisis, and with e-commerce continuing to grow and grow, it’s time to collaborate on this issue – to make sure Christmas isn’t cancelled completely in the years to come.

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