In recent years, Black Friday on London’s famous Oxford Street has been a chaotic mass of bargain-hungry shoppers. This year, however, one of the world’s busiest retail areas resembled a ghost-town. Christmas lights shone brightly above the streets, but with the nation under Covid lockdown, almost every store sat in darkness.
The result has been a record-breaking period for e-commerce. Amazon says this year’s holiday shopping season has been the biggest in its history. John Lewis, a British department store, reported a 35% rise in online sales compared to its busiest day in 2019. At its 38 shops across England, however, it didn’t make a single penny. Overall, UK retail sales fell by more than 10% versus Black Friday 2019.
That’s partly because there were already online discounts available even before Black Friday on 27 November. By spreading out the holiday shopping period, both retailers and shoppers could benefit by avoiding crowds and last-minute delivery issues.
US shoppers go online
Restrictions may differ, but there were similar scenes in the United States, the home of Black Friday. Foot traffic in stores was down just over 40% across the holiday weekend. But Cyber Monday, three days after Black Friday, was the largest online shopping day in US history, with sales volumes up 15.1% versus 2019.
Here, too, people have been shopping earlier than normal. By the beginning of December, total shopping-season already topped $100 billion – a milestone not usually reached until the middle of the month.
Unprecedented demand for parcel delivery
It all adds up to a peak season like no other for parcel delivery companies. According to Marco Schlüter, Chief Operations Officer at Hermes Germany, the company moved approximately 40% more parcels during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period than in 2019.
Hermes has taken numerous steps to meet this unprecedented demand. It has hired thousands of extra staff and expanded the network of ParcelShops to provide a practical drop-off point for couriers and customers. Digital route planning helps drivers deliver parcels more quickly and efficiently. “During this period, more than 90% of all parcels have been successfully delivered just one day after we receive them,” says Schlüter.
Record-breaking Singles’ Day
In future, peak delivery season could begin even earlier. Singles’ Day, China’s monster e-commerce period at the beginning of November, has made waves across Southeast Asia, but is yet to truly make an impact in Europe or North America.
It was another record-breaking year for Alibaba and JD.com, who sold $115 billion worth of goods – further proof of how the pandemic has encouraged (and forced) more and more people to shop online. Alibaba’s $74.1 billion was almost double last year’s figure, although sales now start up to ten days before the actual Singles’ Day on 11.11.