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Online retailers and couriers are experiencing a 17% surge in late gift deliveries as the Omicron surge drove shoppers from the High Street last weekend, according to ParcelHero’s head of consumer research David Jinks.

Pointing to research by retail analyst Springboard, which revealed a 25% plummet in the number of visitors to the High Street on Sunday (19 December), compared to the last Sunday before Christmas in 2019, Jinks said: “It’s heartbreaking. Things had been looking so rosy for town centre stores this season, with a 10.8% rise in the value of sales as recently as last month.

“Monday’s deliveries look around 17% up on anticipated volumes. The reason for the late surge is not hard to see. Many shoppers have fled the High Street to safely order their final presents at home.”

Jinks said a reluctance to meet family and friends over the festive period has added to the surge in online deliveries.

"With family get-togethers being discouraged by some health experts and mandatory curbs on household mixing now under consideration, many people have also made the decision to send their gifts to friends and family by courier, rather than deliver them in person.

“Many senders are booking pickups from home to avoid Post Office queues. This all adds to the flurry of last-minute deliveries being handled by the networks,” he added.

Jinks said the increased demand has seen some retailers cut their next day delivery service.

“The result of all these changes in the last few days before Christmas means substantially more home deliveries than was forecast even just two weeks ago. So far, none of the main UK couriers are reporting very significant delays to parcel deliveries, but many stores have sensibly cancelled next-day options and have brought forward their final order dates,” he said.