The COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent restrictions on our ability to leave the house changed the way in which many people shopped. Home delivery became the norm for everything from grocery shopping to clothes and even DIY supplies – it had to. Where e-commerce had previously accounted for a significant portion of the fashion industry’s sales, it was no longer possible for people to buy clothes in person, and thus a huge boom in online sales – and returns – was born.
Whilst people may not have needed new clothes for going out, they wanted clothes that they would be comfortable working from home in. Plus, new clothes for growing children and clothes to fit as they lost or gained weight. Most importantly, they wanted them on the same day, with the same convenience they were used to with a trip to a physical store.
To understand just how large the market for online shopping became during this period and the impact it had on the rise of same-day delivery here in the UK, it is helpful to look at a few statistics.
The most recent research indicates that in 2022 around 56% of those who shopped online felt that same-day delivery was a very important feature of e-commerce. This is compared to a pre-covid figure of just 33%. At the start of the pandemic, online sales accounted for 19% of the retail market overall. This same figure today sits at 30% of all sales. The expectations that shoppers have when it comes to most online retailers have changed significantly.
For some shoppers, same-day delivery isn’t enough on its own either. They also want their purchases to arrive within a set period, preferably of their own choosing.
This increase in demand for same-day deliveries is something of a double-edged sword for courier companies in the UK. Whilst there is no denying that this increase in demand means more employment opportunities, it also means more stress for courier companies and their drivers. If courier companies are going to be able to meet this increased demand, then targeted recruitment drives are often needed in order to fill driving positions and fulfil contracts with retailers.
Whilst there are many courier companies out there with plenty of drivers, it is important to remember that as a result of the pandemic, there is still a significant backlog of people waiting to take their driving tests. As some couriers leave the profession, there is, therefore, a lack of new drivers entering the field.
In order for same-day deliveries to be truly viable for the majority of companies and sectors, in particular those with higher return rates like the fashion industry, there are certain criteria that must be filled. High volumes of orders within a reasonable distance of a distribution centre need to be achieved if retailers can hope to cover their costs effectively.
When free returns are offered as well as next-day delivery, this is also a cost that needs to be considered. Many customers may be happy to pay higher delivery costs for the convenience of same-day orders, but a delicate balance is needed.