By Claire West

Retailers are missing out on valuable revenue by ‘shutting up shop’ and prematurely closing their Christmas delivery operations, according to a snapshot study carried out by Royal Mail.

The findings suggest two thirds of retailers are failing to take advantage of the extra sales on offer by accepting orders until December 23 and posting them out using guaranteed next day services to ensure delivery by Christmas.

Worryingly, approximately one in six retailers are calling time on their Christmas delivery operation a full five days before final posting date.

The study suggests large numbers are failing to capitalise on Christmas opportunities despite the fact that December is the most lucrative month for many retailers.

Retailers face growing pressure to deliver an improved customer experience all year round, but especially at Christmas. Recent initiatives from Royal Mail, designed to help retailers better meet the delivery needs of their shoppers, reflect rising consumer expectations around when and how they receive goods and items.

Retailers can also ensure that they provide the best possible delivery function by becoming Internet Delivery Is Safe (IDIS) Gold accredited. Carrying the IDIS logo on a retailer website gives shoppers confidence that the delivery process has been properly implemented and assessed to provide the best possible chance of first time delivery success.

Gary Winter, Head of Fulfilment at Royal Mail, said: “Christmas represents a pivotal time for many retailers, so it's surprising to see that such a large proportion of them close their websites to orders earlier than they need to. Those retailers looking to match customers’ needs fully and capitalise on December sales opportunities should carefully consider whether this year they’re shutting up shop too early.”

Irene Omaswa, Senior Manager, Shipping at eBay, said: “This is a positive development which will give eBay sellers the opportunity to extend their sales period during the busiest and most lucrative selling time of year. Offering online shoppers a reliable delivery service is a major part of receiving positive buyer feedback, which is essential to an eBay seller’s success”

David Smith, Managing Director of IMRG, said: “This Christmas, online sales are expected to follow the growth trend of previous years and reach record levels, highlighting the importance of providing a positive shopping experience at this time of year.

“Smaller retailers and those in their infancy would do well to pay heed to the research findings which identify the importance of their sales and delivery capabilities, and the value of getting it right. This hugely busy and valuable time of year is certainly not the time to shut up shop early.”

Royal Mail has already this year extended the opening hours of almost 600 of its busiest delivery offices until 8pm on a Wednesday to make it even easier for people to receive items that could not be delivered during the day.

And last month Royal Mail launched an improved and extended range of tracked services to smaller retailers to help them improve the delivery experience for their customers.

To maximise sales over the busy festive period, retailers can take orders up until 23 December and have them delivered on Christmas Eve using Royal Mail Special Delivery. The latest recommended posting date for Second Class items is Saturday 18 December and Tuesday 21 December for First Class mail and packets.

The last recommended posting date for Royal Mail Tracked® is Monday 20 December.