Royal Mail warns of delays in run up to Christmas due to Covid

11 December 2020, 10:48

Royal Mail has said people's post will be delayed
Royal Mail has said people's post will be delayed. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Royal Mail has warned that shoppers will face delays to their deliveries of Christmas presents this year due to huge demand caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The service said that it has been experiencing "exceptionally high volumes of post" as people are forced to move to online shopping due to the pandemic.

Royal Mail also stated that social distancing measures put in place to keep workers safe in its mail centres and delivery offices were also causing further delays.

In a statement, Royal Mail said there had been a "greatly increased uptake of online Christmas shopping" driven "in no small part by the lockdown".

"Despite our best efforts, exhaustive planning and significant investment in extra resources, some customers may experience slightly longer delivery timescales than our usual service standards," the company explained.

"This is due to the exceptionally high volumes we are seeing, exacerbated by the coronavirus-related measures we have put in place in local mail centres and delivery offices.

"In such cases, we always work hard to get back to providing our usual level of service as quickly as we can.’

The service has said there is "unprecedented demand"
The service has said there is "unprecedented demand". Picture: PA

The shift to online shopping means there are expected to be 200 million more parcels going through the postal system this year.

Online orders are also expected to be up by more than 50% this year after the closure of non-essential shops during the second national lockdown led to a surge in online shopping.

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Royal Mail explained it has taken on 33,000 seasonal workers. In addition, Amazon UK has recruited 20,000 staff, Hermes 13,000 and Yodel, 3,000, but it is thought this will still not be enough to cope with the extra demand.

A number of retailers have brought forward their last order date before Christmas as a result, to help reduce the risk presents will not arrive in time.

Some retailers, including Boots and John Lewis, took to social media to explain the delays being due to Royal Mail.

The Royal Mail statement continued: “Everyone at Royal Mail is working hard to deliver the most comprehensive and high quality service we can to all our customers, large and small.

"The combination of greatly increased uptake of online Christmas shopping, in no small part driven by the recent lockdown, and the ongoing COVID restrictions mean that all delivery companies are experiencing exceptionally high volumes this year.

"Every single parcel, letter and card is important to us. We remain grateful to all our customers for their patience and understanding as our dedicated workforce work hard to deliver these exceptional volumes, whilst also adhering to necessary social distancing measures.

"We remain determined to be there for the country, just as we have been all year, and to ensure that we help all our customers deliver Christmas 2020.

Royal Mail said they have recruited temporary staff in the run up to Christmas
Royal Mail said they have recruited temporary staff in the run up to Christmas. Picture: PA

Some online shoppers have reacted furiously to the news and have contacted Royal Mail on Twitter to complain about their parcels failing to arrive on time.

"There’s a postbox near me which is so stuffed with letters you can see them all through the slot. No idea when it was last emptied," said on disgruntled social media user.

"Parcel delivery by Royal Mail is a disaster. Things disappear for days without explanation. Given their starting position, they should have been dominant in this field but they have blown it and more. I would never use them as a delivery company," said another.

However, some people expressed sympathy for the workers and said they understood the stress of trying to meet a surge in demand during the pandemic.

On twitter user said: "Spoke to nice postman today in London, where a first-class letter from elsewhere in London just got to me after two weeks.

"He said they had massive backlog: "Inside the depot, it's like a jungle."

Another said: "My postman told me they are that seriously understaffed due to the pandemic that there's a huge backlog of parcels and letters. He also said they are struggling to recruit temps for Christmas."

Royal Mail also explained extra measures that have been taken to try and combat the delays.

“Ahead of the Christmas peak we hired around 33,000 temporary workers to support our 115,000 permanent postmen and women," the company said.

"Temporary staff, many of whom return year after year, are helping to sort parcels, cards and letters at sites across the UK.

"For the past ten years, Royal Mail has opened a network of temporary parcel sort centres to handle additional Christmas volumes.

"This year, Royal Mail expanded its portfolio of seasonal sites to help manage the anticipated growth in parcel volumes.

"Eight centres have been opened, including two additional sites in Northampton and Milton Keynes. We will also be operating a full Sunday parcel delivery service this weekend to help us get parcels to customers as soon as possible."