WITH Christmas just over a week away many people will have finished their shopping for presents.
But with more and more of us turning to the internet to carry our bags are we seeing a decline in people visiting the shops with shoppers more inclined to click the ‘Buy Now’ button and have it delivered to their door?
I got to find out just how much hard work goes into that ‘easy’ decision when I was invited to take a tour of an Amazon Fulfilment Centre at Marston Gate where millions of orders are processed every month – and on some occasions in just one day.
On the first Monday of December last year, affectionately referred to as Cyber Monday, 2.1 million items travelled through the centre handled by hundreds of staff on their way to various destinations.
So far the Marston Gate centre has not released its figures on the number of orders placed so far this year or how many millions of our Christmas presents have been placed with them.
However, they were quick to say that Monday, December 3, stayed with tradition as the busiest day of the year so far.
That Monday has historically been the day on which most orders are places as people have just been paid and want to spend their last pay cheque of the holiday season on gifts.
However, as is the case with many things in the modern world people don’t want to traipse around shops for hours on end.
They want to shop as quickly as possible, at their own convenience, with their mobile phone or computer and let the shopping come to them. This is where Amazon comes in.
The centre is a hub of activity on any given day with hundreds of permanent staff but over the Christmas period they will fill around 1,000 extra temporary positions so the operation can run smoothly on a 24/7 basis with shift workers clocking in at all hours.
And smooth is probably the best way to describe it as items shoot across the factory, which is the size of seven football pitches, ready to either be stored or shipped out depending on the information customers have provided.
That is in fact a very simplified version of how things work.
When an order is placed it is instantly assessed by what type of delivery detail has been put on it whether that is next day, standard or first class.
It is then assessed by size and destination as to which fulfilment centre it goes to before it is shipped at all hours of the day. It is then sent to fulfilment centres across the country and it arrives at Marston Gate courtesy of one of 32 dock doors.
Items are then sorted and stored in terms of the delivery date and location and subjected to a six-sided check before being scanned and sent to the next stage.
Specialist workers then package the items and, if requested, staff will wrap an item for a special occasion. Being close to Christmas this has proved popular with shoppers who want to take the difficulty out of their shopping experience.
Why face the tireless battle with the sellotape when for an extra couple of pounds someone can wrap it for you?
Paul Burns is the general manager and has been in place since April, he said: “We have such a large team but it all works like clockwork. There’s a high volume of stock not on the shelves and in storage so you see the size of the operation we have to undertake on a daily basis but more so over Christmas.
“We work hard to make sure that items are delivered on time, and in one piece and we are proud of the work we do in terms of making sure things arrive safely.
“We have millions of items coming and going through this centre on a weekly, almost daily basis, and we make sure every single one gets to where it is going as quickly and as safely as possible.”