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Home delivery networks have seen a surge in business following the introduction of a third national lockdown, according to parcel comparison site ParcelHero.

The company also said strict new Brexit red tape had stretched delivery networks this week although there had not been dramatic delays to parcels and goods deliveries.

Panic buying caused supermarket websites to crash on Monday evening (4 January) when the lockdown was announced with Brexit increasing courier costs and creating the need for significant new paperwork, it said.

But it added that there seemed little danger of a return to the delays and shortages experienced last March.

"There’s no doubt January will be a rollercoaster ride for retailers and delivery companies across the UK," ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks, said.

"The double whammy of Brexit and Covid as we enter 2021 is something retailers and couriers have been concerned about and planning towards for months. Of course, delivery networks are stretched by the sudden announcement of a third national lockdown for England.

"Similar measures have been taken across the devolved nations of the UK. However, the problems so far are largely to do with the surge in shoppers panicking over news of the lockdown and attempting to log onto supermarket delivery networks en masse.

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"The situation for supermarket deliveries is far different than it was in the dark days of the first lockdown last March. Once the initial panic buying subsides, we believe booking problems will improve significantly.

"All the major supermarkets and delivery networks have hired thousands more staff, such as drivers and warehouse operatives, to ensure they can meet demand. Online sales have been 50% up on pre-Covid levels for many months now and national retailers are in a far better position to fulfil orders."

Jinks said Britain’s departure from the EU had created delivery stresses but these were "not unmanageable".

"ParcelHero is currently very busy with no appreciable fall in international orders but, so far, we are not receiving many reports of undue delays at borders," he said. "However, this situation could change over the coming days and we are monitoring things closely.

"That’s not to say Brexit is entirely pain-free. The new red tape will hit anyone trying to send a parcel to the EU. Everyone needs to fill in an online form including detailed item descriptions and the reason for sending their parcel. In addition, VAT-registered sellers who wish to avoid delays must quote their EORI numbers and the tariff codes of the goods they are shipping."

Jinks warned that there was further bad news for customers and sellers: "Most international couriers have increased their prices by around 5 euros (approx. £4.50) on parcels crossing the EU-UK border," he said. "Further charges may be incurred on heavier packages. That will push up the final price UK shoppers pay for purchases from EU sellers.

"Additionally, the UK government now requires all EU companies selling to Brits to register for UK VAT. Most countries do not demand this and, as a result, some smaller European traders have decided to abandon the UK market entirely."