Hermes managing director Martijn de Lange looks to the final quarter of 2017 and asks how delivery providers can be prepared.

For me, the start of October signifies the beginning of the final stretch of the year, as we head towards another demanding peak season.

Of course, we actually started planning back in January when we went through the process of ‘lessons learned’ and took a moment to reflect on our busiest peak to date, as we had handled more than 36 million parcels between Black Friday and the new year.

But from now on Black Friday, Black Fiveday, or whatever the marketers wish to call it this year, is clearly visible in the distance and there is no doubt we need to be ready.

The increasing popularity of this US phenomena, particularly online, has impacted the peak period greatly. Many consumers are taking advantage of the week-long promotions to do some or all of their Christmas shopping, rather than waiting until later in December.

This has allowed the industry to spread the volumes more evenly and start earlier.

Ecommerce consultancy Salmon estimates online sales during November will surpass those in December, with UK shoppers spending £20bn online throughout the month. It is also predicted that £7bn will be spent over the seven days of Black Friday week.

There certainly seems to be no let-up in the phenomenal growth in our sector, with B2C ecommerce sales in the UK rising by almost 16% during 2016 and the IMRG forecasting a further 14% growth in the market this year.

Managing demand

We ourselves have experienced double-digit growth for a sixth year in a row. Over the course of 2016 we delivered in excess of 260 million parcels and like the industry our numbers are also on the up, with more than 295 million packages expected to be delivered in 2017.

“With these huge numbers, managing demand during peak is critical for retailers and their customers”

With these huge numbers, managing demand during peak is critical for retailers and their customers.

The past two years have been relatively successful for the retail and home-delivery sectors, which have in the main enjoyed a successful peak trading period.

But who can forget Christmas 2014 when the delivery industry made the front pages of several tabloid newspapers, accused of “ruining Christmas”.

There is no doubt that planning is key to our success, as is our excellent working relationships with our clients, constant investment in our network and most importantly the hard work of our teams.

Prioritising innovation

This year we have further strengthened our infrastructure with the addition of our 270,000 sq ft Midlands Super Hub in Rugby, as well as prioritising innovation to boost our portfolio of services and solutions.

We were recently lucky enough to have Sir Chris Hoy speak at the opening of our Rugby site. He is a truly inspirational man and he talked about the importance of concentrating on the process rather than the result.

In cycling terms this meant that if he knew he had done everything right during his preparation for a big race, such as training and nutrition, then he had to believe he would succeed.

He also spoke about positive visualisation whereby he would see himself completing the final lap, with the best time and winning the gold.

Well it worked for him, so I am taking the same approach. I am certain that we have done everything right regarding our peak planning, infrastructure investment and customer relationships to ensure this peak will be a successful one.

I am also visualising myself with a glass of port and a mince pie on Christmas Eve, knowing that we did a good job.

  • Martijn de Lange is managing director of Hermes