Major retailers and shipping operators in Australia are advising shoppers to buy their Christmas presents early as the country gears up for one of the most online-driven festive seasons ever.
Christmas is the most important period for many nation’s retailers, representing a significant portion of companies’ earnings, and many are expecting this Christmas to be predominantly online as Covid-19 restrictions lock populations down and discourage going out to shop.
“With social distancing and all the precautions, people aren’t going to want to go into a crowded football stadium-like environment at their local shopping centre,” says Ruslan Kogan, CEO and founder of Australia’s largest online retailer Kogan.
“So, they’re going to be doing more and more purchasing online and Christmas sales are going to be shifting earlier and earlier into the year.”
According to Mr Kogan, retailers have already been experiencing Christmas-like volumes for the last eight months, and that he expects the final quarter of the year to be “massive”. In response he has been building up inventory levels at his business to the highest they have ever been in preparation for what he is calling the “e-commerce Christmas”.
Such preparations are not limited to retailers, but include delivery companies too, such as the Australia Post who are recruiting over 4000 people across the country to help deliver record parcel volumes, representing the biggest hiring scheme in the organisation’s 210-year history.
Nearly 2900 Christmas casuals will be hired across transport and deliveries across the country, with a further 300 fixed term full-time and part-time customer contact centre operatives. The Post is also recruiting around 900 roles in other areas of the business, including across the Post Office network.
Sue Davies, Executive General Manager People and Culture said this year’s Christmas casuals will bring a welcome boost to a workforce that has been working incredibly hard all year. “A lot has been expected of our people this year and I’m so proud of the way our team has adapted and dealt with the challenges they’ve faced to keep delivering for Australia across our entire network,” she said.
“In managing all the necessary Covid-safe requirements, including a reduced workforce in our Melbourne facilities during the recent Stage 4 restrictions, our people have gone over and above to provide critical services for businesses and their customers, and delivered for over 8.1 million households who have shopped online between March and August alone.
“This is a record-breaking recruitment drive for what we expect to be a Christmas unlike any we’ve had before in Australia Post’s history. In a year that has been incredibly challenging and impacted people in many ways, we are delighted to be inviting people to join us this Christmas as we deliver across the country.”
Last year, Australia Post received more than 23,000 applications for Christmas casual positions. Earlier this year, more than 50,000 applications were made for the 1,000 casuals hired in response to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Logistics operators, responsible for the distribution of goods ordered online, are also gearing up for a major pre-Christmas rush. Leigh Williams, managing director of third-party fulfilment company eStore Logistics, and winner of CILT’s International Young Achiever of the Year 2013, said he was forecasting demand to be as much as triple the usual.
“Typically, each year we see an uptick of about 80 to 90 per cent leading into Black Friday and the festive period, but due to Covid and consumers shifting online, we’ve already seen that level of increase,” says Mr Williams. “We’re expecting another 50 to 100 per cent increase on what we’re already seeing for Christmas.”
Leigh discusses the impact of Covid-19 on Black Friday with Tony Richter, Founder and Managing Director, Bastian Consulting in the following webinar:
Both Leigh Williams and Ruslan Kogan are expecting November to be a bigger month for sales than December due to a massive increase in online demand. But neither believe this change is temporary.
They expect online sales penetration to reach similar levels as those overseas, exceeding 30 per cent of total retail sales. “We just have to look at the US, UK, China and Germany, which are five years ahead … that’s what we’re going to be in a few years’ time,” says Mr Kogan. “It’s an industry with a massive tailwind and a huge runway.”
This is an example of a business response from Australia which we are sharing as part of our global best practice resource to help you think about and determine appropriate responses locally.