Retailers cautiously increase Christmas delivery times

Average promised delivery times have increased across the UK in the run up to Christmas as retailers are overestimating the time it takes to fulfil customer orders so as not to disappoint shoppers.

Research from consulting firm, Kurt Salmon, part of Accenture Strategy, stated average promised delivery times increased by a third to 5.3 days in 2019 compared to four days last year.  

But retailers are still struggling to meet these expectations with a quarter failing to deliver within the promised timeframe.

Shoppers also have to spend more this year to qualify for free delivery, with the median spend for the free delivery threshold rising 9% to £50. 

Retailers who are providing the fastest delivery by ensuring items get to customers the next day include John Lewis, Next and B&Q.

“In recent years, retailers have suffered by overpromising during the holiday season, hoping to win out by pledging fast deliveries that they haven’t been able to fulfil,” said Siobhan Gehin, MD, Kurt Salmon, part of Accenture Strategy.

“This year we’re seeing more retailers take a cautious approach, preferring to under promise and over deliver. In other words, it seems that many high-street retailers have decided not to try and beat the likes of Amazon in a game of convenience, instead focusing in different areas to win the loyalty of customers.”


With sustainability being a hot topic in 2019, it is unsurprising that retailers are making at effort to become more eco-conscious with their fulfilment methods. Nearly half (45%) of retailers are using 100% recyclable materials to pack their goods, while Carphone Warehouse is using electric vehicles for its deliveries.

Retailers are also discouraging returns by offering improved online sizing guides and getting rid of free returns – the number of retailers offering free returns dropped by 15% year-on-year, while one fifth of retailers surveyed did not include a returns slip with their orders.

Gehin added: “Many British retailers are making a concerted effort to become more sustainable, while at the same time, reducing the operational cost and burden of returns. It’s a delicate balancing act, whereby consumers demand convenience but also have good intentions to consume and purchase more sustainably. Retailers need to balance consumers’ desire for convenience and their aspiration to be sustainable, recognising that small changes, such as introducing recyclable or reusable packaging, can go a long way in building customer loyalty.”

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