By Peter Louden, COO at ArrowXL

At this time of year most companies in our sector are elbows deep into the preparation for Black Friday and the Christmas period. However, this is not like any other year.

In many ways we have been practicing for Peak since the start of lockdown when our volumes shot up as people turned to online shopping, purchasing garden furniture instead of going on holiday and buying fitness equipment as the gyms were shut. As a 2-person carrier we are normally very busy for around six weeks from Easter with these kinds of purchases, but six weeks became 20 weeks and there has been no sign of a let up with our volumes remaining around 30% higher than last year. 

We have also increased the numbers of clients that we work with by around a third. These are primarily companies that are looking to increase the levels of customer service they provide and are looking to benefit from the premium services we offer such as a diary booking service and increased communication.

Things levelled up a bit as Autumn has arrived but people are continuing to invest in their homes with new furniture and appliances as are those taking advantage of the stamp duty break to move. And this is before we factor in Black Friday and Christmas which, understandably, we predict will be the busiest yet. 

A lot of our preparation was fast tracked at the start of the pandemic and so we are in good shape. Most importantly we know that we have the processes and equipment in place to keep our people safe. I also believe that we have put in place the necessary measures to ensure that we can continue to maintain our service levels.  

We have grown our capacity by over 15% with the opening of brand-new facility in Enfield and increased the size of its delivery fleet by a third. Over 200 additional staff have already joined the business and another 300 seasonal employees will be recruited across all areas. Where possible these employees are being given the option of working from home in line with Government guidelines. We have also invested £1.5m in additional technology including new handheld terminals for all delivery crews. 

Some things are of course out of our control. For example, I am concerned about the impact of local lockdowns on our ability to deliver. We deliver large items to the room of choice and often install them – this is now not possible in some areas which is frustrating for our delivery crews and the householders. The economic uncertainty, with many people losing their incomes, also makes volumes predictions tricky and we are working more closely than ever with our retail clients to understand their requirements and expectations.

Yet I feel strangely calm. We have done our best and are as prepared as possible – earlier than normal!