In 2014, videos of scuffles in supermarkets led to a record amount of Black Friday shopping taking place online © Getty Images
In 2014, videos of scuffles in supermarkets led to a record amount of Black Friday shopping taking place online © Getty Images

Black Friday 'broken' due to strained delivery firms and carbon fears

23 November 2020

A combination of environmental concerns and delivery disruptions should force a rethink of the Black Friday shopping extravaganza, according to industry figures.

Lockdowns are expected to lead to a boom in sales, pumping an estimated 429,000 tonnes of carbon emissions into the atmosphere and becoming the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” for already-strained delivery companies.

Phill Davies, co-founder of technology firm Magway, said Black Friday was “broken” because “putting more cargo and parcels onto the roads isn’t sustainable in the long run”.

“With lockdown confining people to their homes and away from the high-street, more HGVs will take to the road to deliver consumers’ parcels – a trend that will only exacerbate in the years to come. 

“Offering consumers options like the possibility of paying extra to offset the carbon impact of their delivery is a start, but in the long-run we really need to address the fundamentals of how the entire supply chain operates.

“Socially conscious brands that strive to help fix the issue of sustainable delivery now will be the ones that prosper most in the years to come as more consumers start to evaluate the full impact of their online shopping habits.”

A report by Money.co.uk said a survey of UK consumers found 85% planned to shop online this Black Friday but just one in 10 considered the impact their online shopping deliveries may have on the environment.

It added that eagerness for getting parcels delivered quickly was adding to the UK’s online shopping carbon footprint.

As a result, Money.co.uk estimated that 429,000 tonnes of carbon emissions could be released by UK delivery firms in order to meet Black Friday demand, the equivalent to 435 return flights from London to New York.

The firm also analysed annual sustainability statements released by 12 major parcel delivery companies in the UK, looking at areas such as click and collect, cycle delivery, walking delivery and use of electric vehicles.

Royal Mail was ranked as the most carbon conscious delivery company, due to its ‘feet on the street’ network of 90,000 postal workers. It also reduced its global carbon emissions by 29% since 2005 and invested in a 295 fleet of electric vehicles. 

ParcelHero has predicted the UK’s Black Friday spend could reach £8.49bn, while online sales are up by 53% year-on-year due to the pandemic. 

David Jinks, ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, warned that delivery disruptions experienced by retailers on Black Friday six years ago could repeat themselves. 

After viral videos of scuffles in supermarkets emerged on Black Friday in 2014, shoppers spent a then-record £810m online, but “no one was prepared for this scale of online ordering”, Jinks explained.

“The spike in online orders caught many of the UK’s most respected brands off-guard. The likes of AO.com, M&S, River Island, Currys-PC World, Shop Direct and Debenhams all admitted to disruptions to their delivery networks in fulfilling the record amount of orders.

“What was a struggle for retailers became a pitched battle for delivery companies. Yodel was forced to stop picking up parcels from retailers as it struggled under the weight of demand.”

Jinks added that even e-commerce leader Amazon found itself overstretched.

“Black Friday 2020 has all the hallmarks of 2014. Delivery networks are already at full capacity and then some. Black Friday could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” he said.

“Either retailers must stagger bargains throughout December or their delivery partners are going to have to borrow Santa’s sleigh. Otherwise, this Black Friday will have many shoppers seeing red.”

Ranking of the most carbon conscious delivery services (out of 60):

1. Royal Mail 54.5

2. Amazon 47.5

3. DPD 39

4. DHL 34.5

5. UPS 34

6. Hermes 32.5

7. Yodel 32

8. CitySprint 31.5

9. FedEx 23

10. Parcelforce 19.5

11. Speedy Freight 16

12. DTDC 5

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