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Just Another Manic Cyber Monday': Parcels And Christmas Preparations

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In the last decade, technology has changed our personal lives markedly.

We have become able to carry our entire music collections in a little, plastic box in our pockets. We can now see and speak to family, friends and clients on the other side of the world using a device smaller and lighter than a paperback book. We can also save ourselves a trip to the high street by doing all our shopping on the internet wherever and whenever we want with the added convenience of having someone deliver it to our front doors.

In the run-up to Christmas, the ability to visit digital stores is of real benefit to those many individuals who find themselves with lots of things to buy but not enough time to pop to the shops on their local high street.

Over the last seven years, e-commerce has arguably become almost as much a part of Christmas and turkey, mince pies and blockbuster movies being repeated on television.

It has also spawned its own vocabulary with millions stocking up with gifts on 'Cyber Monday', the start of the most intense period of online retail of the year.

Once orders are placed, though, the shopper's job is effectively done. They can sit back and await the arrival of their purchases.

The work is only about to begin for those handling the huge volumes of parcels which onine shopping generates and for whom the effort in making a Merry Christmas has relatively recently become a truly year-'round job.

It would be wrong to think that there's only one large peak in parcel traffic created by everyone going online at the same time to find the perfect gifts.

In fact, is the extent to which Britons have taken e-commerce to their hearts - and their wallets - that we are likely to have seen four separate peaks, each successive one being higher than other, by the time the final Christmas deliveries are made.

More than four million parcels will be handled by delivery companies here every single day until the final days before Santa and his reindeer are due to land on rooftops the world over.

The change wrought on the parcel industry by SIM cards and smartphones in the last several years has been greater and faster than at any other point in my decades of working in it.

Not so long ago, it seems, almost all the goods carried by delivery firms were between businesses.

Early in December each year, there would be few days which saw a deluged of packages not containing iPods and tablets but Christmas puds and cardigans heading between family members at home and abroad.

There used to be a similar rise in shipments at the start of November as stores stocked up their shelves in anticipation of the pre-Christmas rush.

However, internet shopping means retailers have become e-tailers, ditching bricks and mortar premises in favour of virtual outlets on the World Wide Web. As a result, many high streets have lonely looking store fronts and parcel firms have found themselves delivering to homes instead, with the festive load now being concentrated in a few weeks leading up to December the 25th rather than across the two months prior to it of old.

Processing ever-greater numbers of parcels in even fewer days has required a dramatic transformation in how the carriers operate and placed enormous strain on available resources of space, staff and vehicles as they work to ensure shoppers are satisfied and Christmas stockings are chock-full.

Even when the majority of us put our feet up on Christmas Day, the delivery industry will not be switching off completely. For it seems that one of the other seasonal casualties of the smartphone is the traditional Boxing Day sale.

With PDA in hand, we can now hunt for bargains from beneath the duvet rather than camping overnight outside department stores in sub-zero temperatures. We will still, with feverish excitement, expect our purchases to be delivered promptly and, of course, that task falls to the carriers.

When, in January, the decorations have come down and dads have at last exhausted their supply of Christmas cracker jokes, parcel firms will barely have a chance to draw breath before they embark upon preparations for the next Noel.

And yet ours is one business in which I doubt anyone would really welcome a totally 'Silent Night'.