The boss of Royal Mail has issued an urgent call to managers to hire extra vans to deliver Christmas presents on time.
Simon Thompson, a former Apple executive who also ran the NHS Test and Trace app, has told managers across its 1,200 sorting offices to get their hands on hundreds more vehicles after admitting head office bosses had left posties short at the busiest time of year.
In a desperate late-night video message posted on an internal channel for its 137,000 employees, seen by the Mail on Sunday, Thompson said: 'Hi team, sorry to get you so late on a Friday evening but I wanted to share something with you about delivery vans. I don't think we've got this right. I think you're short. And I've been hearing the feedback now for too long and it's now time to act.
'So what we're going to do from Monday morning is we're going to make sure that you - at a local level in all of the delivery offices - can decide exactly what you want and you can go and source what you want locally.'
Royal Mail has the largest fleet of vans in the country, including 40,000 of its distinctive red vehicles. The decision will leave staff hunting for extra vans with little notice to get vast quantities of mail delivered on time during the festive rush.
Simon Thompson (pictured), a former Apple executive who also ran the NHS Test and Trace app, has told managers across its 1,200 sorting offices to get their hands on hundreds more vehicles after admitting head office bosses had left posties short at the busiest time of year
The 500-year-old firm is attempting to cope with the huge numbers of consumers heading online to do their Christmas shopping. Many shoppers began their festive spending earlier this year amid concerns over supply chain problems leading to shortages of presents.
One employee said the board was now in 'panic mode' to rectify the situation.
Consumers have already been left facing delays due to high levels of sickness and self-isolation related to Covid. The pandemic is currently hampering deliveries at 18 offices across the country, including in Bristol, Sheffield and Warrington in the North West.
In the video, Thompson said the dash for extra vans would last for three weeks before the vehicles needed to be returned on Christmas Eve.
He said: 'You are going to decide what you need – you are going to be able to source them locally and we're going to give you a process that's super easy. So team, that I believe will help ensure that we can deliver a really great Christmas for our customers.'
The 500-year-old firm is attempting to cope with the huge numbers of consumers heading online to do their Christmas shopping (file image)
One concerned employee posting in response said the move could leave the company paying inflated prices for last-minute rentals. Thompson responded: 'Perhaps so – perhaps not – let's focus on getting the vans that are required – and looking after our customers – that needs to be our key focus.'
Another employee joked: 'Christmas comes on the same date every year and Royal Mail has only had 500 years to get it right, maybe they need more time.'
A source close to the company told the MoS: 'Thompson is in panic mode. The costs will be mad and there is already a shortage of vans across the UK, so the question is whether any vans will even be available. Their planning for Christmas has been a disaster.'
Asked where he got the policy on vans wrong, Thompson said the company would conduct a review in January. Earlier this year he launched a drive to devolve more responsibility to local managers.
A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: 'Christmas is our busiest time of year and we start planning for the following year while most people are still taking down their decorations.
One concerned employee posting in response said the move could leave the company paying inflated prices for last-minute rentals (stock image)
'We have invested in thousands of extra vans and around 20,000 temporary workers to help deliver the festive mailbag, and this week we have also given local managers more freedom to hire additional vans if needed to ensure we can deliver a great Christmas for the nation.'
In October Royal Mail and sister firm Parcelforce Worldwide began a drive to hire 20,000 extra seasonal staff to handle extra Christmas cards, parcels and letters.
Last year senior Royal Mail executives, including former interim chief Stuart Simpson, missed out on bonuses and share awards worth £1.4 million after service failures, including delays last Christmas, and 'slower than planned' modernisation of the business.
Royal Mail is already battling fierce competition from the likes of FedEx and DPD to deliver parcels for online retailers.
The switch away from the High Street towards ecommerce has accelerated during the pandemic, boosting Royal Mail's profits and share price. Last month the company announced plans to hand shareholders a £400 million reward through a £200 million special dividend and a £200 million share buyback.