Christmas shopping has started early in the UK according to the boss of courier business Yodel, which is racing to hire extra drivers for the festive peak.
Chief executive Mike Hancox said shoppers were heeding the warnings from retailers and logistics companies to buy in advance in case of supply chain delays and stock shortages.
“It has been a big last two weeks in categories like toys,” he told the Financial Times. “They [consumers] have already started shopping. Whether that leads to a bigger seasonal period or brings it forward — I’m not sure.”
He also said he is confident that Yodel, the fifth-largest UK courier by parcel volumes, can find the 4,300 seasonal workers it needs for the pre-Christmas rush. Costs are likely to be higher this year, however, because of the intense competition for staff.
“It’s no mean feat hiring that many people on a temporary basis,” he said. “The question is, can we get them at the cost we have budgeted or do we have to pay more than we ever have? We’re working on the worst-case scenario of more than we ever have.”
The pandemic helped the business, which is owned by the billionaire Barclay family, to turn its first ever pre-tax profit in the year ending June, a decade after it was launched. Hancox said deliveries of food, wine and pet food in particular had shot up.
Profitability is expected to continue in the current financial year, despite higher cost pressures, he said. The business expects parcel volumes to top 200m in the current financial year, up from 190m last year.
Yodel’s workforce is evenly split between employees, subcontractors and self-employed couriers. It directly employs about 3,800 people.
Hancox said the business was hiring more staff directly because it had become expensive to contract work out. “It’s the agency market that has got buoyant, hence we are employing more people,” he said.
Yodel was doing well at attracting clients he said, with recent gains including retailer JD Sports.
Hancox also said Yodel is not as keen on electric vehicles as rivals like DPD and Royal Mail but is focusing on more efficient combustion engine vehicles and electric cargo bikes to reduce emissions instead.
“If green means buying electric vehicles then it’s a huge outlay. I don’t think it’s the right thing at the moment,” he said. “We don’t have the infrastructure in the UK to run an industrial fleet.”