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back to article Nearly 1 in 5 of UK's Xmas gifts were bought online... not that it helped

A record number of Blighty's shoppers were browsing and buying online for Christmas, but their frenzied clicking wasn't enough to lift total retail sales by even a single per cent, the British Retail Consortium said. According to a BRC and KPMG survey, nearly one in five of all retail stuff bought was picked up from the comfort …

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Devil

Christmas shopping in town? See the icon... Fighting your way through crowds of people trying to find presents based on what's on offer in meatspace. I also increasingly find that staff in shops know bugger all about what they're selling. I bought all my stuff online with zero hastle.

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Town wasn't that crowded - as everyone was online. I didn't order a single thing online this year for Christmas, for the first time in year. Some techy I am!

I was in Central London with my 5 year-old neice on about the 20th. That was quite busy. But the shops where I live were mostly reasonable to empty. Even on Christmas Eve. Not that there were many bargains to be had on Crimbo Eve. Sadly I didn't score any enormous piles of special offer cakes, biccies or smoked salmon this year. Boo!

Special bonus points to Argos for their click-and-collect. You don't need to log on, you just find thing on website, see if it's in stock near you, and can then reserve for 48 hours with just an email addy, or phone number. Then pick up by using the reference number in the magic payment station, or take to the till. I don't mind setting up an account to order something, but just to be able to see if something's in stock locally, I really can't be arsed to jump through the hoops to do that - and will look elsewhere.

M&S deserve to be in trouble, as they've been relying on their name for years. Most of their stuff is no longer the same quality, but it's still quite boring, lacks variety, and is still priced as if it's top quality. That applies to their food, as much as their clothes and other stuff.

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Anonymous Coward

Still got my usual present a shirt that didn't fit, every year without fail I get a shirt that doesn't fit.

You'd think that my wife of 14 years would have caught on to all the hints I had left around the house.

So instead, this year I bought something for myself. I can now make light and fluffy loaves while looking up the recipes on my new iPad mini.

As to the shirt that didn't fit, she took it back and I didn't even get the cash.

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That'll teach you to be ungrateful.

"As to the shirt that didn't fit, she took it back and I didn't even get the cash."

Just the way she planned it!

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Imagine how much better it could be

> One of the key things that marked retailers out were those using multiple ways to get stuff into people's hands

If there were any courier companies, any at all, that had the slightest clue about how to deliver goods to households, at times that were convenient to the receivers - not based around the hours that the couriers preferred to work?

How radical it would be if they delivered in the evenings - just like your local pizza outfit manages. And 7 days a week, too! Or even if you could specify when you'd like your deliveries to arrive, or simply book a slot.

We know all this is possible, supermarkets manage their own deliveries for the convenience of their customers (even if the stuff that turns up isn't always what you ordered). However the "last mile" deliveries are all stuck in the 1980s: when couriers were business to business operations and 9-5 was all that mattered. If Amazon really wanted to assert their total domination, they'd buy up one of the major courier companies, or extend their distribution operation and do the final stage themselves. Whether by van or by drone.

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Re: Imagine how much better it could be

The courier companies have missed the boat. Big Time.

Our regular supermarket (Sainsburys Tamworth) has a locker system outside. Collect your goods at your convenience.

And I'm guessing it won't be long before they integrate online shopping with Amazon et al, so your Amazon order comes with your groceries. For a price.

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Re: Imagine how much better it could be

My butler signs for all my deliveries - if your butler doesn't I suggest you look to replace him - or if you live in an apartment block then the concierge should be signing for deliveries.

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Re: Imagine how much better it could be

I suspect more control over the last mile is exactly where they're heading. Amazon Lockers, for example.

I used to have a cheap account with the local Mailboxes Etc, specifically so someone was always available to pick up/sign for deliveries. That's only a workaround though - I agree the delivery side needs to get better.

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Boffin

Re: Imagine how much better it could be

"If there were any courier companies, any at all, that had the slightest clue about how to deliver goods to households, at times that were convenient to the receivers - not based around the hours that the couriers preferred to work?"

Hmmm..... I wonder what could possibly be the reasons that none of them do??? Cost could be one. Requiring a lot more drivers and vans delivering the same number of packages but wasting lots of time driving backwards and forwards round the same areas to cater for all the different delivery times requested by the individuals. Obviously, you've never worked in logistics to know how that's never going to happen. Why do you think the post office doesn't do it either.

They have set rounds that have to take into account traffic patterns, one way systems, parking to unload, etc. and the vehicles have to be loaded in reverse order so that they don't have to keep moving stuff to get to the stuff they have to deliver first. If they have to keep having to go back to areas they've already been to just to cater for individual requested delivery times, it could potentially take them several hours to get back to them and they wouldn't get all the deliveries done.

Courier prices would need to increase dramatically to cater for all that as, potentially, it could mean that they are only able to get a quarter of the deliveries done within their permitted driving hours!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Imagine how much better it could be

And 7 days a week, too!

I placed an order with Amazon on Boxing Dec.

Being the week between Xmas and New Year, I wasn't expecting to get a delivery, but Amazon said, if i ordered before 1pm on Friday 27th Dec, then i could get expedited delivery on the Saturday, 28th. So i selected that. The handed off to the courier on the night of the 27th Dec, i know, because i got an email from both Amazon and the courier, both confirming i could expect delivery on the following day, Sat 28th.

It's annoying to admit that i wasn't entirely surprised when the delivery failed to happen. Nor when i got home from work on the Monday to discover the "we tried to delivery your parcel" card.

But it was a shock to log on to their website to arrange a re-delivery, and discover they wanted to charge me an additional £12 to have it re-delivered on the following Saturday.

In the end they tried to re-deliver three more times in the week and in the end left the parcel with a neighbour.

There are courier companies out there who are capable of delivering on a Saturday. I wish Amazon would make sure that if they are promising a Saturday delivery, then they use an appropriate courier company to fulfil their promise.

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Happy

Re: Imagine how much better it could be

Conversely, in the run up to Christmas, I placed an order with eBuyer on Fri 19th, with next (working) day delivery, and received confirmation that my goods would be delivered on Monday 23rd.

So when the courier rang my doorbell on Saturday 20th, I nearly missed him because I wasn't expecting the delivery.

Not only that, but when I didn't answer (because I hadn't heard the bell), he knocked on the door as well, and was trying next door as I did belatedly get to the front door. And this was Yodel (formerly HDN).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Imagine how much better it could be

"If Amazon really wanted to assert their total domination, they'd buy up one of the major courier companies"

Amazon (UK at least) seem to have missed the plot here (and the likes of eBuyer etc are no better).

I am now very reluctant to do business with suppliers that won't tell customers who they'll use for delivery. Where I live, RoyalMail/ParcelForce is good, my experience says Yodel/HDN/etc are to be avoided like the plague. Amazon's First Class doesn't mean "First Class Mail" any more (if it ever did).

Channel 4 Dispatches (good name) did a secret-camera courier company documentary [1] last year centred on "UK Mail" but other couriers seem little better.

Amazon have relatively recently started offering CollectPlus's "deliver to your local corner shop" (e.g. my local Co-op) which worked fine for me for a while for small low value non urgent stuff, but a friend in a different part of the world has had goods tampered with.

Anyway unfortunately all Amazon have to do is survive long enough to put their competitors etc out of business, and given the state help they get with corporate global taxdodging, that may only take a little while longer.

In recognition of this, the books calendars etc I bought this Christmas were ordered online from Waterstones, and picked up in person (not an option for everyone, I acknowledge).

[1] http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/videos/all/secrets-of-your-missing-mail

[2] http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/25196-yodel-named-worst-parcel-delivery-firm-

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Imagine how much better it could be

All shops would be better opening at 12pm and closing at 8pm. We don't like in the 1970s any more, with the house wife send off to town with the housekeeping money to buy things.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Imagine how much better it could be

Amazon have a locker service at collect + stores.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Imagine how much better it could be

Nobody is saying they should offer exact times. Just a delivery window and range. DPD are one of the best at the moment, they tell you when your delivery is going to happen so you don't waste the day sat at home waiting.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Imagine how much better it could be

Indeed, plus you should have the choice of every courier. How hard would it be?

I hate companies that use APC, you never know when the order is going to arrive and their tracking system uses a Captcha (argh!!). Before xmas they just left a parcel behind a tree, which I was glad of because I didn't want to drive 30 miles to collect, but it was a parcel of a value of £130!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: general experience with Yodel this year?

"[unexpectedly prompt and efficient eBuyer delivery] this was Yodel (formerly HDN)."

The whole concept of eBuyer using Yodel for "next working day" delivery is just so weird. HDN once took 4 weeks to not deliver a small but heavy 400watt uninterruptible power supply from eBay not eBuyer, which I ended up collecting from a home 2 miles from here. For a while my eBuyer stuff via ParcelForce had a tendency to show up 7am next day regardless, but since you can't actually say "use ParcelForce, no substitute", it doesn't really count.

That being said, after Yodel's extensive feedback and adverse publicity in 2012, Yodel HQ did say they were going to make a lot of changes.

Are the changes actually showing up in reality?

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@Steve Renouf

> Obviously, you've never worked in logistics

Yes, I haven't (?)

Which means I start with no preconceived ideas - just a knowledge of what one customer wants - and some of the possible benefits to any business bold enough to break out of the norm.

Delivering outside of business hours, with no rush-hours, some lifted parking restrictions, no getting caught up in the school run. Being able to get more than 8 or 10 productive hours a day (and more than 5 productive days a week) out of your vans, offices and warehouse. Having access to a large pool of workers who have finished their day jobs and want to earn some extra: either delivering, sorting or doing the paperwork (maybe even keeping the websites up to date?). Offering the retailers extra options for "out of hours" collections - overnight, even. Increased volumes from more customer-friendly services, the ability to expand the business and take pick-ups from householders, too.

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Re: @Steve Renouf

Pete 2,

It's all very well you saying that. But the margins in the delivery business are shit. And have been shit for years. Which means only the big companies can do anything like planning ahead. The rest are just surviving.

Partly this is a problem, because it's so easy to set up. Especially for the shysters and fraudsters, who trade for a bit, build up the debts, then go bust and start all over again. But there's always someone around under-cutting the ones with good service. And the companies doing the buying, tend to go with the cheapest. As do the customers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Steve Renouf

"the companies doing the buying, tend to go with the cheapest. As do the customers."

I'm a customer of the Amazons and eBuyers and such.

More accurately, I *was*.

These etailers will not tell me whose delivery lottery I will be required to tolerate. Fpr that and other reasons (paid much tax lately, Amazon?) I now look elsewhere wherever possible. Even if it costs a little bit more. Especially on higher value items or stuff I *have* to have tomorrow.

Going to *collect* something at a time of my choosing is a pleasure in comparison with gambling a day's pay on whether the stuff will turn up or not (delivery to work is not an option, neighbours also).

In fact there's even an "inverse Comet" effect here. Once upon a time people used to look at one in the shops and then buy online, now I look at Amazon to get product info and read reviews, then buy it somewhere else where I can actually physically get one in my hands and in the car, at a time of MY choosing.

Heck it even makes Currys/PCW attractive for some stuff in their range - that's how badly p***ed I am with not being able to choose a delivery service by name.

Even Argos's click and collect is more attractive than the delivery lottery.

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FAIL

Re: Imagine how much better it could be

And yet the Japanese courier companies have no trouble offering one- or two-hour windows that don't stop when the banks do.

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Re: Imagine how much better it could be

"And this was Yodel (formerly HDN)."

Hopefully that's a sign of improvement. Last Xmas my newly ordered 42" telly sat in a Yodel depot in the north west for three days despite me having paid for next day delivery to the north east. A phone call to Very had their guy talking to Yodel in a three way with me and neither could explain why my next day delivery was three days late and still not scheduled onto a van.

The best I got out of them was a cancellation of all delivery fees and a telly delivered nearly a week late.

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Mushroom

Working near a retail park

I could see everyone piling in christmas eve, I thought this was the age where everyone ordered stuff online and then I got an alert from our monitoring system that everything I wished it.

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Devil

Retail sales grew measly 0.4%

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Christmas consumerism, bah humbug.

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Re: Retail sales grew measly 0.4%

haha - i was about to post the exact same thing!

I cant think of any sort of "cure" though

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They'd stand a better chance

if they didn't see Xmas as an excuse to fill the shops with shit.

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High street is dying thanks to councils and the shops themselves.

Business rates and costs to rent mean on the high street everything is the larger stores and so everything is homogeneous even between rival stores, so there's really a limited choice of things to get as gifts or even inspire ideas.

Councils have killed the high street with absurd parking costs or parking restrictions (this really stood out going back to see parents this year and finding my local town centre has become a wasteland whilst a little way away were parking has been provided with plenty of spaces and cheap another town is doing well (people park and spend a day just browsing if its only a couple of quid to park they are less likely to do so if its 10-15 quid, this increases footfall and means that the chances of people buying stuff is higher).

The stores see it as a great time to fiddle their prices and get themselves an extra percentage.

People are becoming pissed of with the commercialism of the whole thing.

People are reluctant to buy things that in the stores are going to be discounted two days later in a sale.

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Re: High street is dying thanks to councils and the shops themselves.

"People are reluctant to buy things that in the stores are going to be discounted two days later in a sale."

I think that's actually a major driver of the fall in pre-Xmas shopping too. Back in the "old" days of the January Sales which started in <gasp> January, on the first "working day", ie the 2nd or 3rd, then people would still buy on the lead up to Xmas with the Sales being a week or more after Xmas day. But when the January Sales start on Boxing day, without fail, even if that's a Sunday, people are prepared to wait and buy some Xmas presents after Xmas, especially if it's a new household item for the family or a personal "gift" to oneself.

Some shops only close for Xmas day these days, even open on New Years Day, supermarkets in particular.

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What do they expect. When retailers are constantly getting caught out shafting their customers with fake "sales", etc. I don't even mind paying a few quid extra for the convenience of getting things at a local retailers and having the item straight away. But when I'm getting charged £50 for a photographers bag at the local Jessops which is selling for £30 on Amazon then I know I'm being asked to bend over and take one for the team.

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Anonymous Coward

Jessops paid their taxes and had shops. That stuff costs money.

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Anonymous Coward

"Jessops paid their taxes and had shops. That stuff costs money."

Apparently at one time they even had well informed and motivated staff.

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Anonymous Coward

People have less buying power now, it is any wonder there's little growth?

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Couriers.

ISTR a few years back there *was* a UK courier-business that focussed on non-business-hours delivery - it was a franchise operation where the deliverers tended to be part-timers working from home as a second job and would incorporate their delivery work with the school-run/curry-delivery or similar.

[Which is fine for small stuff but I'd like to see them get a few 42-inch TVs a dishwasher and a palletized Land-Rover R380 gearbox in the back of a Fiesta]

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Re: Couriers.

well if employers would let us get our consumerist junk delivered to work - which they generally dont there wouldnt be so much of a problem. Not that I'd fancy getting a palletized Land-Rover R380 gearbox in the back of my car... actually if you ditch the pallet no problem

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Re: Couriers.

There are still some around. I order from a home brew store, and it's delivered by a woman in a saloon car. My first thought was it was an employee or relative (the shop turned out to be 15 miles away from me, although I didn't know it when I ordered). But then the same woman delivered something else (at 7pm) for the wife ... I think it was vitamins or something.

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Re: Couriers. - work deliveries

My employer used to allow this till a few years ago when our security office started to resemble argos.

If you had a Land Rover R380 you would get it in easily.

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"Only 1 in 5 of UK's Xmas gifts were bought online"

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Silver badge

Bah!

I don't suppose this lack of growth represents the dawning realization that people own enough tat?

Although I have to point out that growth is still growth. Sales were still *up* this year over last year, just not by as much as the store owners would like. Time to celebrate/worry is when sales are non-existent, for then the buying public will have cottoned onto the great Xmas Conjob and opted out.

But you'd better not be cutting off my supplies of Xmas Atmos and new tat under the tree, by Santa!

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Re: Bah!

"Although I have to point out that growth is still growth."

Upvoted for that. It's shareholders who destroy companies when they stop growing rapidly. Privately owned companies can survive a downturn better because they don't suddenly get massive drops in "value" due to fly-by-night shareholders selling up when returns drop below 5%.

I think that's a prime reason why Michael Dell bought back his company. Now he can get on with stuff without the pressure for continuous short term growth and profit. Sometimes development and restructuring take time and short term investors won't wait for that so a listed company dies instead of changing.

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