Many online retailers risk missing out on Christmas sales because they stop taking orders before they need to.
Research by the Royal Mail has found that two thirds of retailers are not taking orders right up until December 23, offering next-day delivery services to ensure gifts arrive on time.
Instead, it says, one in six are ending their Christmas delivery operations five days before the final posting date.
Gary Winter, head of fulfilment at Royal Mail, said: "Christmas represents a pivotal time for many retailers, so it’s surprising to see that such a large proportion of them close their websites to orders earlier than they need to. Those retailers looking to match customers’ needs fully and capitalise on December sales opportunities should carefully consider whether this year they’re shutting up shop too early."
Irene Omaswa, senior manager, shipping at eBay, said eBay sellers would benefit from extending their sales period during “the busiest and most lucrative selling time of year.” She added: “Offering online shoppers a reliable delivery service is a major part of receiving positive buyer feedback, which is essential to an eBay seller’s success"
David Smith, managing director of IMRG, said: "This Christmas, online sales are expected to follow the growth trend of previous years and reach record levels, highlighting the importance of providing a positive shopping experience at this time of year.
"Smaller retailers and those in their infancy would do well to pay heed to the research findings which identify the importance of their sales and delivery capabilities, and the value of getting it right. This hugely busy and valuable time of year is certainly not the time to shut up shop early."
Royal Mail says retailers can use Special Delivery services to delivery up to Christmas Eve. The last recommended posting date for second class post is December 18, while first class mail and packets should be sent by December 21. The last recommended posting date for Royal Mail Tracked is Monday December 20.
Our view: It's no wonder that the Royal Mail is encouraging companies to use their services right up to the last minute this Christmas. But retailers will have a sensitive choice to make which goes directly to their year-round reputations. Failing to deliver Christmas orders on time has to be up there with the least recommended business tactics. On the other hand, last-minute shoppers will welcome the chance to still be in time - even when they're running late. There's a balance to be struck - and it's useful to know how late a Christmas delivery can in theory go.