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How leading retailers are approaching the Christmas delivery challenge

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Ensuring that Christmas orders get to their destination is a perennial peak challenge for retailers and their delivery partners. Naming final order dates is a balance between being certain that deliveries will arrive in time, and not cutting off potential orders too early through caution. In years gone by, retailers have been hit when unexpected weather conditions meant deliveries arrived later, and responded in subsequent years by cutting off deliveries too early for last-minute shoppers.

We've taken a look at the pre-Christmas delivery promises offered this year by leading retailers in the IRUK Top500 Operations & Logistics Performance Dimension.

Those retailers that have enabled same-day delivery (5% of IRUK Top500 retailers do this) are offering last orders right up until Christmas Eve, which this year falls on a Saturday. Amazon is offering same-evening delivery in London and five other cities for orders made as late as 12 noon. However, it warns that when slots are filled last order times will become earlier. Amazon Prime members in nine cities can order still later, at 9.45pm for one-hour delivery by 10.45pm. But the final day for free delivery is on Tuesday December 20, with the cut-off time for standard paid-for delivery Wednesday December 21.

Other leading retailers are leaving last order cut off for Christmas delivery as late as they can, while still balancing the promise with certainty of arrival. Next is offering a Christmas guarantee that if an order is placed by December 22 for delivery on December 23 or 24 and does not arrive, the recipient can have it for free and have a gift card to the same value – though it limits this to £1,000 per household and for orders made in good faith.

Sainsbury's , like all the grocers, offers pre-Christmas delivery slots for its grocery deliveries up to Christmas Eve - but these need to be booked well in advance. Availability of slots depends on the area. To order its non-grocery Tu clothing range online for pre-Christmas delivery or collection by December 23, shoppers must order by 2pm on Tuesday December 20 for click and collect, by midnight that day for standard delivery, or by 2pm on Thursday December 22 for next-day delivery.

New Look flags up 'get it in time for Christmas' from its home page. A table with a large variety of options shows final order dates for delivery by Christmas, and for New Year. For standard delivery, shoppers must order by 6pm on Wednesday December 21 for Christmas delivery, and on Sunday December 25 for delivery in time for New Year's celebrations. Next-day cut offs are 7pm for Friday December 23, and 7pm on Friday December 30, while the cut off for next-day click and collect is 6pm on December 23.

The final leading retailer in the IRUK Top500 Operations & Logistics Performance Dimension is Screwfix. But although Screwfix offers very fast delivery times, it seems that Christmas gift buying is not a priority.

• Meanwhile, The Post Office expects to handle record numbers of online purchases and returns at its 11,600 branches as retailers predicts an ecommerce sales boom. It is opening for a million extra hours over Christmas to ensure that customers can get their parcels sent in time. Some 4,000 branches will be opening on Sundays, and 14 extra mobile Post Offices have been introduced to serve remote areas.

Kevin Gilliland, group network and sales director at the Post Office said: “People in Post Offices around the UK are working hard to make this Christmas special for our customers. Many of our 7,000 modernised branches are open from early in the morning and late into the evening seven days a week, making it more convenient to visit. One million extra opening hours is just the start of our Christmas effort, over 55,000 people in our 11,600 branches are on hand to help the millions of customers who will visit in the run up to Christmas.
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