Gary Grant spoke to Retail Week as part of an expert panel, including clothing retailer Apricot’s head of ecommerce Pahul Ahluwalia and Metapack vice-president of global product Duncan Licence, for the upcoming RWRC virtual event Delivering an Online Christmas

They discussed how delivering this Christmas will be harder than ever before.  

Grant explained that for the toy sector 50% of sales by volume take place during the fourth quarter: 10% in October, 15% in November and 25% in December.

Following learnings from the first national lockdown, he said The Entertainer has opened a second online distribution channel via the warehouse that normally serves its store estate in Banbury and introduced additional carriers to spread the risk and avoid cancellations.

However, in the short clip from the virtual event shown above, he cautioned: “We are very concerned about the sheer [number of] cartons that will go through the toy trade. We will have a weakness, we don’t think we can maximise the packing, but we also think the next weakness will be couriers.” 

Ahluwalia said Apricot has been trading up on 2019 due to an influx of new customers discovering the clothing brand as a result of the greater penetration of online shopping.

“We are expecting a huge spike [this Christmas],” she said, adding that the trend was already evident. Apricot has also joined forces with a number of delivery partners as a result. 

Metapack works with a variety of retailers and Licence said of preparations: “I think it’s a mixed bag. We are seeing some retailers working really hard to be prepared – the mix of adding carriers and increasing fulfilment capacity. [Many are] beginning to use ship-from-store as an alternative model.” 

Metapack also works very closely with its carrier partners, which Licence said are all adding a “huge amount of capacity” with a “lot of investment” going in. 

Warnings that this Christmas will see a huge surge in online shopping and put operations under strain could be right, based on international comparisons. 

During China’s Spring Festival, its first peak holiday event following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and during what was still the height of its surge in cases and deaths, etail giant Alibaba’s online supermarket Hema saw orders increase by 200% year on year, while rival’s grocery sales were up 470%. 

The Golden Quarter is retail’s most lucrative time of the year and businesses simply cannot afford to fail. 

However, the challenge remains as to how to handle the online surge and avoid a bottom-line hit, all without alienating customers through poor service. 

To find out how Retail Week’s expert panel advised navigating this challenging period, register to watch the full virtual event recording for free. 

You’ll learn: 

  • Why dynamic delivery options and choice are critical in a crowded market
  • The importance of having a diverse carrier base
  • How to fulfil a spike in online orders, profitably 
  • How to improve the entire delivery experience, from tracking to returns