Online retailers brace for an ‘Everest of peaks’ in home delivery

man online shoppingAccording to the latest available data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the UK’s e-commerce revenue in 2018 totalled just over £688 billion, which was a sharp increase on the previous year. The UK has the most advanced e-commerce market in Europe and it’s expected to set a new record in 2020.

Whilst high street retail has suffered a cataclysmic drop-off in footfall due to the pandemic, online sales have skyrocketed as consumers continue to work and shop from home. ONS figures suggest that 87 percent of UK households made online purchases within the preceding 12 months, making this the highest online purchase penetration rate in the country for the past 11 years. Again, this is set to be eclipsed by 2020 data.

Record online orders

Research by retail analyst, Kantar, revealed that online sales in September alone were up by 76% compared with a year ago, with one in five households now ordering groceries via the internet. The proportion of sales made digitally month-on-month remains unchanged at 12.5%, suggesting that shoppers are choosing to stick with home deliveries as the latest round of regional lockdown restrictions takes effect. Ocado in particular has shown to benefit most from the trend, growing its latest 12-week sales period by 42%. Ocado has also increased the number of shoppers using its service in the latest period, which is the only retailer to do so. Analysts suggest that its new partnership with Marks & Spencer has made a positive impact.

woman shoppingAs online retailers look forward to the Christmas period, there is almost universal expectation that it has the potential to be the busiest ever season for online deliveries. According to ParcelHero, this year’s 50% boom in online sales, fuelled by the pandemic, has already created unprecedented demand for home deliveries.

The company’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks, warns that the UK’s delivery supply chain could be overstretched by a ‘double-whammy’ of families posting gifts as they are unable to be together due to restrictions, plus a shortage of van drivers, exacerbated by the predicted fallout of Brexit. He commented:

“The huge demand for deliveries is being compounded by the reported loss of 250,000 EU nationals from the UK economy this year, which will lead to a 30% shortfall in drivers and warehouse workers. Even though many retailers and delivery companies are attempting to hire thousands more staff in preparation for Christmas, this might be difficult to do in practice. With capacity already stretched, the impact can’t be underestimated and it could be the Mount Everest of peaks. For many retailers, Christmas at least doubles their usual sales and we anticipate 2020 volumes could be 50% higher than last year.”

Increase in work related injuries

With this exponential growth in online shopping, however, has been the inevitable heightened rise in work related injuries. Pre-Covid-19, improper manual handling already costs the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds each year with more than 100,000 manual handling injuries recorded, 2000 of those classed as severe. Musculoskeletal injuries account for over 40% of all work-related sickness and latest data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that more than 8 million working days are lost to this type of injury each year.

Reducing injuries but also labour costs associated with home delivery are two priorities for materials handling specialist, Stanley, as it helps retailers and other businesses to tackle issues with growth.

Stanley’s range of powered lightweight stair climbers is proven in trials to deliver safe and cost-effective goods handling, which when scaledSprinter 85 up, offers a significant positive return on investment. Ideal for the majority of home deliveries with a carrying capacity of up to 85Kg but weighing just 13.5kg, the Sprinter 85 stair climber trolley offers retailers and courier firms an ideal solution. With simple push button control and twin speed function, the trolley’s caterpillar tracks and puncture proof tyres enables a single operator to deliver loads up and down stairs both safely and quickly. Its compact and foldable design facilitates easy onboard stowage and a one-hour fast charge battery ensures continual reliability.

Watch the video below to see the Sprinter 85 in action

Wearable technology is helping to reduce injuries in the workplace

manual handlingSimilarly, Stanley has been at the forefront of providing businesses with an innovative and discreet wearable device that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to measure physical movement, frequency and forces on the body. Linked to an app on the user’s smartphone, data collected helps employees to look after their bodies with help from a series of tutorials on safe handling, whilst management can use data obtained to implement wider business improvements. Trials of this technology have demonstrated that operatives can integrate better movement techniques into their work, thereby reducing the risk of injury and helping to create a culture of safe productivity.

Commenting on the challenges facing the home delivery market in the run-up to Christmas and into 2021, Stanley’s Managing Director, Graham Sharp, said:

“The trend in online shopping has accelerated hugely due to the impact of the pandemic, so meeting this unprecedented spike in demand will be very challenging for retailers and delivery companies alike. Above all, it means employing more people and this has the potential for increased risks due to improper manual handling, whilst under pressure. Stanley’s focus on the development of materials handling equipment, plus workplace wellbeing, provides a holistic way of adding value whilst at the same time, improving safety. We have been greatly encouraged by the results achieved from a series of trials with major supermarkets in recent months and look forward to rolling out a number of our solutions.”

Finally, it should be noted that employers have a responsibility to assess and manage the risks posed to their employees from manual handling, as covered by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) 1992. Failure to comply leaves a business and its directors at risk of prosecution from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), not to mention the potential fall-out from financial penalties and reputational damage. With operative safety and return on investment for customers in sharp focus, each Stanley stair climber can be fully customized to business needs. Importantly, the whole range complies with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR).

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