With Christmas deadlines coming up fast – not to mention the overall challenges of Brexit, ever-rising costs and environmental concerns – shipping and packing is a big factor to consider when making purchases.
Panic buying gifts on Christmas Eve afternoon is not possible when you are buying online but internet shoppers still need to make sure that what they are acquiring will make it to the intended recipient in time for the big day.
Royal Mail has already published its last posting dates ahead of the Christmas rush, with December 19 the last day for second class post and December 21 for first. Last-minute buyers can wait as late as Friday, December 23, if they are willing to stump up for ‘Special Delivery Guaranteed’. But would you want to risk it?
Savvy shoppers shouldn’t take risks, James Simmons, marketing manager for delivery firm Mail Boxes Etc, says. “With the festive season fast approaching, many people are looking to the auction sector for quirky, retro and one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts, and it’s never too soon to secure the right thing.
“With postal strikes continuing to threaten deliveries in the coming weeks, it’s not a good idea to take any risks with shipping.”
Jeremy Parnham at Postit4me concurs: “In the run-up to the Christmas period, when the global logistics networks are under maximum pressure, it is crucial to plan ahead and work out the best service for you.
“The advice is always to check last posting days, carrier options and expected transit times with your posting partner. If your items are being delivered outside the UK you should also discuss local holidays and customs thresholds and make sure that you include a recipient contact details as failure to do so may delay final mile delivery.”
Many of the delivery firms have noticed increased demand already.
Graeme Rhodes, head of marketing at Pack & Send UK, says: “With exchange rates currently making UK art and antiques good value for international buyers and collectors it is no surprise that we are increasingly seeing shipping requests for pieces to be delivered as Christmas gifts. There are also several seasonal fairs and exhibitions that stimulate higher demand at this time of year as well.
"But we have visibility of the demand on favoured shipping routes and typical customs lead times to help plan crucial ‘last sending’ days for time-sensitive Christmas deliveries.”
For auction houses, the run-up to Christmas is not necessarily busier than any other time, but planning ahead is still key.
Alexandra Whittaker, communications and PR manager at Birmingham auction house Fellows, says: “Most weeks we sell upwards of 1000 lots of which we post out around 95% quickly and for free. It’s worth noting that Christmas isn’t any busier for us than any other time of the year.
“But in terms of preparing our buyers, we make sure that we plan our last auction of the year to take place before the final postage days of the year and communicate the dates with them through our marketing channels. This means that if someone pays promptly, they should receive their purchases before Christmas.
“We process invoices the evening the auction finishes so many will pay overnight and receive their parcels in two days. This is, of course, dependent on reliable service from the Royal Mail and other service providers.”
Fellows employs a full time shipping coordinator and the team works together with a customer service and dispatch assistant.
Whittaker adds: “As a company, we have invested heavily in our infrastructure and systems to make our shipping process seamless.”
With a month until Christmas there is no great urgency yet, but do not be complacent if you want that special item to arrive in time.