Yodel executive chairman Dick Stead has stressed the need for retailers and carriers to rethink the way they handle unexpected additional volume during seasonal peaks.

He told MT both parties needed to ensure that the capacity problems encountered before Christmas are not repeated. Stead said there was an increasing need for retailers to better forecast how many next-day and deferred delivery orders they expect to receive during busy periods. He also admitted that the carrier struggled to cope with demand over 2014’s Black Friday weekend.

He said the number of parcels entering the network took Yodel by surprise, especially after seeing fairly low volumes in the autumn. The company claimed to have received 600,000 more parcels than forecast by retailers and was unable to bring in more trailer and driver resource due to the high level of demand across the industry.

When volumes did not decline after the sales, collections for some customers were suspended for two days while the backlog in its hubs were cleared. Stead estimated that the operator required some 5,000 additional drivers in order to cope with the volume. He added many of its HGV drivers had run out of hours during the period.

“It is impossible at that time of year to bring in more re-source,” Stead said. “Volumes didn’t drop off as predicted. We ended up with parcels sitting in trailers. We couldn’t run our transport operation.”

Dick Stead exchaiman Yodel

Stead said there are lessons to be learnt by the retail and carrier industries for Christmas 2015 and urged retailers offering next-day delivery as standard to rethink their model for the peak period. “Those [additional resourcing] costs have to be passed onto the consumer. If they won’t pay them over those mega-sales days then retailers can’t offer next-day delivery.”

According to Experian and online retail association IMRG, UK shoppers spent £810m on Black Friday, ahead of the £555m anticipated.

Yodel delivered 15.5 million parcels in December, 11% more than 2013.