iForce boosts workforce by over 200% as the online retail Christmas rush beckons

iForce, the leading omni-channel fulfilment business in the UK, which works with leading retailers such as John Lewis, Waitrose, Dunelm, Aldi, Fortnum and Mason and Cath Kidston is gearing up its recruitment in anticipation of the Christmas Peak activity. Having doubled in size since 2013 iForce now has over 1000 permanent staff working for its retail clients across the UK and plans to recruit a further 2,000 agency staff to cover the on-line shopping peak that runs from October through to the retail sale events in January.

Since 2002 when iForce picked and packed the first online order for John Lewis the business has built a Peak planning process in conjunction with its retail clients that typically starts in February with a review of the effectiveness of the prior year Christmas period. Lessons learned from this are then added to the expected volume of orders and items per order that the retailer expects to see by week in the key October to January period so that plans can be made with regard to operating space requirements and recruitment. With the labour market becoming increasingly constrained it is vital that early discussions take place with the providers of temporary labour so that a joint plan can be agreed that covers areas such as expected pay rates and training that will be attractive to the seasonal labour pool. As the year progresses iForce then reflects any changes within the retailers’ plans such as changes in promotion dates and begins to stress test its operational capability. Additionally as iForce uses its own software to manage each of its retail client operations volume testing is also required for both its software and hardware to ensure systems performance is maintained when all of its retail clients are in the same weeks of peak trading.

Once Peak trading commences then the best laid plans are often challenged as retailers respond to each days sales and at this point communication between the retail teams and their counterparts in iForce is critical to ensure that plans can be flexed to meet the changing conditions and no one is left waiting for their present from Santa on Christmas Day. 

The 2016 peak season saw iForce handle 13.9 million items between 21st November and 2 January, up 10.7% on the corresponding period for the previous year. The company also processed a record number of orders during the festive period, up 12.4% to 1.75 million. During Black Friday alone, iForce’s teams picked 193,561 items and fulfilled 65,047 orders, representing 12.6% and 8.8% rises respectively on 2015 figures. 

“Peak is a time that tests every retailer and supply chain service provider to the limit but with the right plan, the right people in place with the right training, and with a good communication flow it becomes a very dynamic and exciting place to work. We are proud of our Academy training programmes for our seasonal workforce as it produces colleagues who are motivated and armed with the right skills to ensure that our clients’ customers receive their Christmas orders on time and without any unnecessary hiccups.”  Brian Gaunt, CEO iForce.