Black Friday: The logistics management of temporary staffing

Black Friday, the state-side phenomenon commonly believed to have been introduced to the UK by Amazon in 2010, now occupies a key space in the British  retail calendar. Last year an estimated £1.23bn was spent online on Black Friday (according to IMRG). This was 12.2% higher than its equivalent in 2015, with £6.45bn spent over the rest of the Black Friday peak period (Monday 21st  – Monday 28th November 2016).

2017 is set to exceed all previous records.

Whether the origins of the Black Friday moniker are because of the black eyes suffered by sales crazed shoppers or because it’s the day that low-margin retailers supposedly move into the black, one thing is indisputable, its burgeoning appeal creates logistical challenges that last far longer than a 24 hour period.

de Poel’s analysis amongst our logistics client base, which account for over 50 per cent of the parcel delivery market by volume (over 1.6 billion parcels a year) in addition to five of the UK’s largest 3PLs, paints a revealing picture.

Compared to an average week, the  direct effects of Black Friday comprise a window which usually starts around three to five days before (as increasingly retailers adopt an earlier and earlier pre- Friday deal strategy) rolls into cyber Monday and continues on for around a week. Before the activity directly attributable to Black Friday dwindles and moves onto the ’usual’  pre-Christmas peak.

A review of contingent worker staffing over that timeframe shows that, across the board in terms of all skill sets needed by logistics firms generally, 95.2% more temporary worker hours are required during the Black Friday window, in comparison to an average week throughout the year.

Within that finding,  trends relating to some specific skillsets also emerge:

Temporary Worker Hours Required Black Friday Increase on An Average Week
Warehouse Operatives 175.9% More
Van Drivers/Multi-drop 88.9% More
C1 Drivers 72.2% More
LGV C Drivers 196.3% More
LGV C+E Drivers 81.2% More


Across this picture, huge regional differences will be in play. The Midlands area typically requires the most additional contingent staffing with 126.9% more temporary worker hours required last year, the highest of all the regions and 31.7 percentage points higher than the average across the country.

Of course the ten-day timeline that constitutes the Black Friday surge ignores the in-depth pre-planning that needs to occur to ensure such huge volumes of additional temporary staffing is in place.

Typically de Poel will start planning how the peak  period will be staffed around April time, seven to eight months ahead.  Working in partnership with our clients, our contract and performance management team:

  • Review last year’s fulfilment figures and agency performance
  • Account for any new business won or lost since the previous period and forecasted
  • Analyse any changes to our clients’  current and forecasted customer profile
  • Review last year’s volumes
  • Account for an appropriate increase based on a variety of management information and market intelligence tools

From there an agreed plan and process is confirmed with our clients and their agency panels. We then visit each site and region within our clients’ footprint to ensure the required stakeholders at a delivery centre, depot and site level are aware of the plan, the process that will be followed and which agencies will be responsible for the provision of the required temporary worker skill sets. We will additionally consider whether temporary labour taken on during this peak period can be offered longer-term contracts or permanent positions post-event, as our clients seek to offer opportunity to the workers who make Black Friday possible.

Whilst the Black Friday temporary worker strategy will be in place well before the event, de Poel will continually revisit the strategy due to the inevitable change that typically takes place due to market forces or organisational developments. Depending on the level of change and how last minute this change is,  we will deliver fulfilment levels of 98% to 100% from Black Friday into the Christmas peak.

What is also interesting about the Black Friday period, is that the planning for it does not just impact the retail or logistics clients directly affected. As the upsurge in demand demonstrates, if hubs in the Midlands require nearly 130% more temporary staffing hours to cope, other clients who also need drivers for their businesses during that time period will also feel the effects – even if they are in the waste and recycling industry for example. This is where de Poel will also bring our expertise to bear, in ensuring that business as usual also continues for organisations that additionally need the same volumes of temporary drivers despite the pool of available talent actually shrinking due to peak demands in the vicinity.

To discuss how de Poel would approach your Black Friday staffing in 2018, please email