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Black Friday surge triggers delivery delays

Several retailers have been inundated with customer complaints after a high volume of Black Friday online orders prompted delivery delays following the Sales event.

Online and multichannel retailers such as Asos, Topshop, John Lewis, Dorothy Perkins, Missy Empire and New Look received complaints on social media in the days following the discounting frenzy on 24 November, after customers failed to receive packages on time or encountered delays with click-and-collect services.

As online spend on Black Friday surged by 11.7% to £1.6bn this year – as shown in IMRG figures – returns on unwanted purchases peaked on 1 December. Fashion amounted to 42% of all returns, CollectPlus reported.

Some retailers and delivery firms struggled to keep up with demand.

DPD, which delivers items for Asos, New Look and other retailers said in a statement on its website on 1 December that Black Friday sales created “high parcel volumes” and “increased contact” with its customer service team as a result. It warned customers that parcels not received in their one-hour window by 1pm may be delayed until the following day.

Ash Siddique, founder of young fashion etailer Missy Empire, said it experienced delays as a result of an “unprecedented surge” in deliveries for their courier, Royal Mail: “We did have delays with our standard deliveries over Black Friday and Cyber Weekend, which caused a backlog. Our customer service team has been communicating with them and our customers to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.”

A spokeswoman for John Lewis said its branch customer feedback “across its network”, which includes click-and-collect services, “remained stable” after processing 54% more units on Black Friday than during the event last year, and packing an average of nearly 13,000 units per hour.

Mike Richmond, chief commercial officer at Doddle, noted an upsurge in the volume of returns this year: “In our own network, we’ve seen returns volumes grow by 115% year on year over the Black Friday event. Initial trading this peak appears to have been as dramatic as ever.

“We’ve seen some pureplay retailers delivering 13 times more parcels into our network as a result of flash Sales and changes to delivery propositions. Very few operationally intensive industries could cope with that sort of increase without the occasional wobble.”

Stewart Firth, head of operations at Torque, also observed the industry has been affected by “issues with carriers where volumes are concerned”. He added: “Every year has been bigger than the last – we’re 15%-20% up this Black Friday [in terms of sales] compared with last year.”

“We’ve noticed that some [retailers] have been wiser in managing consumer expectations – making subtle changes, for example, by extending their delivery and click-and-collect options from one to three days to two to five days.

“This avoids the risk of carrier issues reflecting poorly on them. There’s a lot of competition out there, and it’s easy for consumers to take their business elsewhere if they’re driven away.”

Asos, New Look and Arcadia declined to comment.


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