Ordering online gifts in time for Christmas needs to be done soonest, particularly when ordering from outside Estonia, parcel delivery firms say, with a month to go from today, "Black Friday" in Estonia, to Christmas itself.
November is already a busy time with volumes several times that of "normal" months, while the war in Ukraine has also complicated logistics chains.
At the same time, the period of the Covid pandemic led to a growth in the sector as the public sought to avoid close contact with others.
Like many northern European countries and unlike the UK, in Estonia the primary Christmas celebration, including gift-exchanging, falls on Christmas Eve, ie. December 24.
Leaders from Omniva, Itella and DPD, the three major firms offering automated parcel machine services, confirmed to ERR that the busy period has already started.
Remo Kirss, CEO of French delivery firm DPD's Estonian branch told ERR that: "The peak winter parcel shipping season usually starts with 'e-Monday', in September, picking up in November, and only continues to grow from thereon in," adding that there is a slight lull in October.
"The 'Black Friday' sales campaign, now adopted by Estonians and which falls at the end of November, boosts this and it already heralds the usual December gift rally, lasting right through until Christmas," said DPD according to whom package volumes are already clearly larger.
Meanwhile Kristi Unt, board member with state-owned Omniva, said that bottlenecks appear at this time of year on the customer side, in other words customers taking their time to pick up a parcel can have a knock-on effect for other customers awaiting freed-up packaged machine space.
Unt said: "On average, a package gets collected within 24 hours. At the moment, the maximum period we retaining packages in the parcel machine for is seven days. This makes it important for people to pick up their packages as soon as possible, in which case the next parcels for eagerly awaited by the next customers can be delivered."
Meanwhile, Rauno Parras, head of transport at Itella Estonia OÜ concurred, adding that if a package reaches them no later than December 21, it can still reach the Christmas stocking by the twenty-fourth.
Itella says it is providing customer service personnel at its high-traffic volume package machines to help resolve this.
With regard to delivery inside Estonia, this, too, should not be left till the last moment, Remo Kirss of DPD said.
"Things don't move that fast when ordering within Estonia. You still have time to look around and choose gifts, but it's definitely not worth leaving this to the week before Christmas, instead having a stress-free Christmas to enjoy the time peacefully with family," Kirss told ERR.
Both domestic and international online orders are already significantly adding to delivery burdens in any case, Kristi Unt of Omniva added – following "Black Friday", orders from outside the EU in particular are unlikely to make it to Estonia in time for Christmas.
Other solutions Omniva says it uses to get things moving – in addition to raising public awareness, which Unt said worked better than raffling off a few smartphones – is forwarding a package to a convenient post office near the consumer, if no free parcel machine space is available, and making efficient use of space if, for instance, a customer orders several packages (eg. by storing all the items in the one locker).
Nonetheless, the high volumes can still lead to delays, and Ominva asks customers to be patient.
All the parcel companies have added new parcel machine locations and hired more couriers, upping delivery frequencies also.
DPD carried out maintenance working its sorting office; Ominva is updating its parcel machine tech.
Editor: Andrew Whyte