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Behind the scenes of Black Friday: Amazon, Royal Mail and Argos hire 49,000 staff to manage 225 million parcels over one weekend

We all know what goes on during Black Friday itself, with £7 billion1 expected to be spent online in the UK alone, with Amazon dominating the sales. But what happens after 225 million items2 have been purchased, and how do the retail giants deal with the sheer volume of orders?

  • Courier Insurers, Staveley Head, explore some of the UK’s biggest brands including Amazon, Argos and Royal Mail to find out how retailers handle the sheer volume of additional orders
  • 263,701 staff are working to manage the Black Friday chaos
  • 49,000 of them are hired just to deal with the increase in orders
  • Staff expected to work 12 hour days with tough psychical demands
  • Retail giant Amazon sells 86 items per second on Black Friday
  • A lorry leaves one of Amazon’s warehouses every 1 minute 33 seconds during its busiest 24-hour period
  • Staveley Head launch an interactive report, where you can go behind the scenes of Black Friday

We all know what goes on during Black Friday itself, with £7 billion1 expected to be spent online in the UK alone, with Amazon dominating the sales. But what happens after 225 million items2 have been purchased, and how do the retail giants deal with the sheer volume of orders?

Courier Insurers, Staveley Head, have collated behind the scenes data from some of the UK’s biggest brands including Amazon, Argos, Royal Mail and more, to present to you Black Friday Logistics.

Black Friday 2017 by day: £1,736,111 will be spent every minute

Before going behind the scenes, we needed to find out what experts think will happen during the day of Black Friday in 2017.

Predicted spend:

Black Friday marks the official run-up to Christmas, leaving 29 days for you to get your orders delivered in time for the big day. This kicks off the busiest time in retail and according to IMRG, £7 billion is predicted to be spent across the weekend (Thursday 23rd – Monday 27th November).

£2.5 billion of that will be spent on Black Friday alone, as previous data shows that the Friday accounts for 36% of the weekend sales3. That means that on the big day, £1,736,111 will be spent every single minute online4.

Retail giant Amazon sells on average 86 items per second according to last year’s data6, and this figure is set to increase in 2017. So, what goes on during the night of Black Friday after billions of pounds have been spent, and how do retailers deal with the chaos behind the scenes?

Behind the Scenes of Black Friday 2017: 49,000 extra staff hired by retail giants and expected to work 12 hour days

Research reveals that based on an estimated £7 billion spend, 225 million parcels will be in transit due to Black Friday sales, with Sunday being the busiest day.

Black Friday staff:

To help cope with the sheer volume of orders, an extra 49,000 seasonal staff7 will be hired across Royal Mail, Argos and Amazon bringing the total staff numbers working for all brands to 263,7018.

Amazon UK will be hiring the most additional staff (20,000) across all departments, on top of their 24,000 regular employers, to deal with Black Friday. The majority will be hired to work within the 11 fulfilment centres placed across the UK.

The job description for an Amazon Associate describes the physical demands one has to face on Black Friday as well as the expectation of working 12 hour days to deal with demand:

  • Standing and/or walking for long periods of between 8 and 12 hours per shift (flex and part-time shifts may vary)
  • Lifting and moving products up to 15kg in weight
  • Lifting, bending, reaching above the head, kneeling, crouching, and/or stretching for 8 to 12 hours per shift (flex and part-time shifts may vary)
  • Pushing and pulling product up to 15kg in weight for 8 to 12 hours per shift (flex and part-time shifts may vary)
  • Manual dexterity of both hands and wrists 
  • Working on a secure mezzanine at a height of between 9 to 12 metres (equivalent to a 3 or 4 storey building)
  • Regularly climbing and descending four flights of stairs safely

Argos have a staff count of 29,565 people in the UK but will be hiring an extra 10,000 for the Christmas period.

Royal Mail, on the other hand, have a massive 161,136 people working for them across the UK and will be hiring a similar amount of staff to Amazon (19,000) to deal with all the deliveries, as well as the expected huge amount of returns. 

82,000 lorries and vans will be on the road delivering Black Friday parcels

During Amazon’s busiest 24-hour period, a lorry leaves one of their fulfilment centres every 1 minute 33 seconds9. The number of vehicles delivering Black Friday orders is expected to increase dramatically bringing the total amount of vehicles to 82,000.

Courier brand Yodel is expected to use an extra 7,000 vehicles for Black Friday on top of their normal 2,500, as they will be part of the courier team supporting Amazon and Argos with their parcels10. Hermes will be using an extra 3,000 vehicles on top of their normal 10,000 as they predict to be delivering 750,000 parcels themselves on the Sunday following Black Friday.


Number of vehicles

Additional vehicles for Black Friday

Total on road

Royal Mail

















No info







Black Friday is without doubt, the busiest day of the year for couriers, delivery drivers and retailers across the world, with so much work going on behind the scenes to ensure a smooth weekend.

Ashley Peters, Managing Director at Staveley Head, commented:

“As insurers of Courier and HGV drivers in the UK, we wanted to go behind the scenes to see the impact of Black Friday on logistics and what happens once an order has been placed. The amount of extra staff and vans hired to deal with the sheer volume of parcels is quite incredible, and can be a very expensive, logistical nightmare for so many companies. It is therefore no surprise that some brands decide to skip Black Friday and focus purely on Christmas during peak season.

Our Black Friday logistics research aims to raise awareness of the behind the scenes effort that courier drivers, warehouse operatives, retail employees and postmen/woman go to, in order to deliver a smooth and efficient service each year”

Credit source interactive report: http://www.staveleyhead.co.uk/assets/black-friday-christmas-logistics/black-friday/

1.  IMRG - £7 billion Black Friday online sales
2. Figure based on total spend divided by spend per person = amount of orders
3. Salmon black Friday report
4. This is calculated by simply taking the spend on Friday £2.5 billion and divided by 1440 minutes.
5. 1 in 5 ecommerce websites crash
6. Inside the Amazon warehouse on Black Friday
7. Royal mail recruit 19,000 temp workers, , Argos hiring seasonal staff, Amazon hire 20,000



Annual staff

+ Seasonal staff


Royal Mail
















Royal Mail annual report, Argos annual report, Amazon hire 5000 people

9. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2849093/Getting-ready-big-one-Staff-prepare-millions-orders-pour-Amazon-warehouses-lead-week-s-Black-Friday-s-just-29-shopping-days-Christmas.html
10. Royal Mail extra trucks, planes and trains , Hermes: Black Friday peak, DPD: plan for peak days and companies expanding for Christmas , Yodel: Yodel recruit 7000 drivers , UPS: UPS black Friday