Small businesses are underprepared for Black Friday

Black Friday

Royal Mail today launches new research, conducted for Small Business Advice Week, which reveals that UK SMEs are underprepared for Black Friday and many are not applying lessons from last year.

Black Friday, the one day promotional sales event which originates from the United States, is now regarded as the start of Christmas shopping season in the UK and represents a major boost to the retail shopping calendar. In 2014, consumers spent £810million online on Black Friday and Royal Mail research, conducted in August, found that 60 per cent of consumers are already preparing to shop online for this year’s event.

The survey of 250 small business owners found that while 95 per cent are making preparations of some form, SMEs are not applying all the lessons learnt from last year’s event.

In 2014, the biggest challenges faced by SMEs around Black Friday were: coping with increased website traffic, managing stock, delivering their orders on time or quickly enough and distributing orders from their warehouse.

While small business owners are preparing for influx of web visitors (39 per cent are arranging extra IT capacity), bringing in more staff to prepare orders (40 per cent are employing additional staff) and improving the availability of products (with 55 per cent ordering more stock), nearly two thirds are not preparing for the delivery of customer orders.

Only 38 per cent of SMEs have extended their ‘delivery window’ to allow more time to get deliveries to consumers and just 36 per cent are working with their delivery provider to forecast volumes. This means that up to 3.1million UK SMEs run the risk of not being able to meet their delivery promises and may undermine customer satisfaction on Black Friday.

Roger Morris, Head of Royal Mail Parcels, said: “Black Friday has established itself in the UK shopping calendar and now marks the start of the Christmas retail season. SMEs are joining the big brands to claim their share of the retail spend, but our research shows that they may be risking their reputation by not preparing in all areas of their business.”

For Small Business Advice Week, Royal Mail is advising small and medium-sized business to work with their delivery provider to forecast volumes for Black Friday and the Christmas shopping period. Royal Mail considers Black Friday as part of its Christmas delivery period and has been planning its logistics and staffing since early 2015. Royal Mail’s preparations include the creation of dedicated parcel sorting centres and the recruitment of thousands of additional staff for the peak period.

 Deane Brooks, managing director, said: “Last year we knew about Black Friday and were running some fantastic offers, but the response from consumers was unprecedented. It was one of our biggest days of the entire year for sales. So this year we’re getting ready early. Our IT system is already robust enough to cope with the surge in traffic on a single day, but we are bringing in more staff to work throughout the weekend and planning with Royal Mail to ensure that our customers’ orders are despatched and delivered on time.”

Roger Morris continues: “Just like our customers we are getting ready for the shopping season by bringing in more staff and adding more capacity. Our advice for SMEs this week is don’t forget an important part of the puzzle: planning your delivery. Working with a trusted delivery provider will give small businesses the reassurance that their Black Friday orders will get there on time, every time.”