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Gearing up for the Christmas peak

Gearing up for the Christmas peak

Premium express delivery carrier City Link says that its new automated sortation system and detailed advance planning will help it achieve another smooth-running Christmas peak for 2014/15, which will be marked by a rise in larger consignments and growth in Click & Collect business.

The company, which enjoyed one of its most successful peaks ever in December 2013, has already begun to put the systems and resources in place for this year’s peak in a bid to ensure that it has sufficient capacity to meet increased demand from retailers and to provide consistent, top-quality service for its business-to-business customer base.

The vagaries of peak deliveries are well known and, with the increase in online retailing, traffic volumes have been driven up further, making flows harder to predict.

UK logistics consultant Alan Braithwaite has even said that “peaks are getting even peakier”.

As online shopping – which was 20 years old in August – continues to grow with a strong trend towards consumers ordering larger, heavier items, carriers need to rise to the challenge to handle all shapes and sizes of consignments. City Link is witnessing strong growth in larger consignments with a 15% year-on-year increase in this type of freight.

However, City Link is able to cope well with this trend. A new automated sortation system, now fully operational, will help increase throughput at the national hub in Coventry by up to 50% and enable the business to flex up to meet the demands of e-commerce traffic growth, essential in the run-up to Christmas.

One of the main benefits of the new sortation system is that it has been designed to allow the processing of larger freight, up to 1.5m in length, through a double deck design.

In terms of equipment City Link has high levels of hand-held scanners in stock, allowing the company to boost efficiency and further improve delivery accuracy.

City Link has begun to review the risks and likely issues in the run-up to peak. The planning team has started to look at moving postcodes to mitigate peak volumes and ensure that the capacity is spread throughout the network. Additionally, the company’s Parcel Collection Points will also be open from 10.00 – 18.00 on Sundays from 30th November through to 21st December, the last Sunday before Christmas.

City Link is also focusing on ensuring that volume forecasts are as accurate as they can be, by working with top account customers in advance of this year’s peak season.

Customers will benefit from a smooth delivery experience, thanks to City Link’s new “On Our Way” service which is now fully rolled out across the UK. On Our Way provides customers receiving parcels with an estimated two-hour delivery slot and the option of re-arranging their deliveries if they’re not going to be in to sign for them.

On Our Way benefits both the business customers sending parcels and the consumers receiving them: first time delivery rates increase and consumer satisfaction with deliveries rises.

Due to the convenience of Click and Collect services, they are destined to become an even greater part of this year’s Christmas story, say retail analysts. Patrick Heaps, head of retail at BNP Paribas Real Estate, says “it is clear that having efficient delivery methods, coupled with a click and collect service, is now essential for multi-channel retailing success”.

City Link’s investment in infrastructure, vehicles, services and systems over the last year will enable the company to respond to this Click and Collect growth.

Louise Whitehouse, head of network support & service, City Link, commented: “We are gearing up for peak with the knowledge that there an emerging trend for larger consignments, and the expectation of another jump in online sales which always peak at Christmas.

“This year City Link has further invested in the necessary infrastructure, systems and enhanced services to meet these delivery challenges. An increase in larger, bulkier consignments being ordered on the internet and the continuing rise in Click and Collect will be two of the main features of this year’s consumer ordering and delivery experience.

"As such, we are well placed to ensure a high and consistent level of service with the detailed, advance planning we have carried out together with our new sortation system, equipment and product offerings.”

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