Research suggests logistics companies are struggling to keep pace with rising online sales. Making it easier to recruit temporary staff would help to get them back on track, says TempRocket’s Andrew Johnston.

As if the festive season wasn’t busy enough for logistics companies thanks to the annual rush to buy gifts online, the rise of Black Friday in late November has piled on even more pressure. Last year, over three quarters of retailers were offering promotions during the Black Friday ‘week’, according to PwC. This helped drive November retail sales 1.6% higher than the previous year, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). It has also extended the buying period, with the spending spree following Black Friday increasing by 5% last year over 2016, according to analysts Fung Global Retail Tech and the Centre for Retail Research. This pushed sales during December to a record high, close to £50 billion, according to the ONS.

Exemplary logistics during this period are key to online retailers delivering the best possible customer experience. However, it looks like logistics companies are struggling to keep up with the increasingly busy nature of e-commerce during late November and December. A survey by Sortedthat mapped the buying behaviours of over 2,000 UK shoppers last year, predicted that Black Friday alone will see £1.01 billion worth of online deliveries fail – either arriving too late or after the allocated delivery slot promised by the retailer. This, Sorted estimates, wouldresult in £203 million of products being returned.

The success of this month-long sales rush for both retailers and their logistics partners relies on sufficient and good quality staff being taken on to cover the extra demand, revealing the business-critical nature of temporary workers, and more importantly, being able to find the right ones. However, although planning ahead is vital when approaching this period, there’s only so much you can do in advance when it comes to recruiting temporary staff. By their very nature, they are booked relatively last minute, making it unlikely for logistics companies to use the same people every year, or at least difficult to book them in advance. This means a new crop needs to be recruited annually.

Many logistics companies will have their own databases of temporary workers, plus they will engage the help of specialist agencies to help them make up any shortfall. But of course this kind of help comes at a cost, and with agencies now able to anticipate this happening each year and recognising the importance of temporary staff to the whole retail operation, they are likely to charge a premium.    

The good news is that extra help is now at hand in the form of temporary recruitment online platforms, which could help logistics companies improve their performance. These new digital disruptors provide a free one-stop-shop for hirers and temp contractors looking for work, meaning there’s a real incentive for both parties to sign up. Second, they allow hirers to search quickly and easily for the right candidates across the UK and beyond if necessary. Third, there is no charge to hirers when they find and appoint someone. And finally, appointments can be made in seconds, with the service available 24/7. Some platforms also present hirers with a selection of agencies, providing hirers with more choice on this front, which they can check and negotiate with for the best rates.

These platforms add another weapon to logistics companies’ temporary recruitment armoury. They’ll take the pressure off using agencies, allow for last-minute booking if necessary, and help build more direct relationships with temporary workers. And with companies across the UK reporting difficulties in finding staff, they couldn’t have come at a better time. 

The period from Black Friday on 23 November up to Christmas presents a great opportunity for retailers to bolster sales, while also boosting business for logistics companies. The success of the system relies on an adequate supply of temporary labour, and sourcing and recruiting this key element just got quicker, easier and more cost effective. 

By Andrew Johnston, Founder of online temporary recruitment platform TempRocket