The health food chain has seen a 400% jump in demand in recent weeks
It reduced its number of lines available by 2,500 while it dealt with clearing a backlog of orders
200 staff have been employed at the new DC, with a further 150 added to the retailer’s customer service team
Holland & Barrett has opened a new distribution centre and taken on hundreds of new staff after failing to cope with unprecedented online demand, which resulted in it temporarily slashing its range by 2,500 lines.
The health food chain, which has attracted heavy criticism for remaining open during the coronavirus pandemic, has struggled to fulfil customer online orders in recent weeks after seeing a 400% jump in demand.
Hundreds of customers have complained to the company on Twitter and hundreds more have left one-star reviews on the Holland & Barrett Trustpilot webpage.
One customer told The Grocer she placed an order for food items on 30 March but had still not received the products, with communication from the business almost non-existent.
Holland & Barrett, in one response to the customer’s query, said: “Food items are harder and slower for us to pick and this has been the root of the problem.”
The retailer reduced its lines available to order by 2,500 while it dealt with clearing the backlog. Holland & Barrett told The Grocer it had now restored all its full range after a two-week break.
The business has added a separate distribution centre as part of its main facility in Burton to increase capacity, with 200 new staff employed to reduce order levels.
It has also made 50 stores from its 800-strong estate operational for online home delivery and added another 150 staff to its customer service team to deal with customer enquiries and complaints.
The next-day delivery service has also been scrapped and Holland & Barrett is now operating at a seven-day lead time on new orders.
Holland & Barrett has faced repeated calls to close the business during lockdown following concern for staff safety. A petition set up by staff has attracted thousands of signatures. The business told the BBC it had been advised by the government to remain open as an essential retailer because it caters to customers with special dietary needs. It stressed it had issued PPE to staff and there were strict social distancing measures in store and in warehouses.
A Holland & Barrett spokeswoman said: “Like many omnichannel retailers, over the last two months we have seen an unprecedented increase in demand for online orders at 300%-400% of the normal level.
“As a result, we have been working tirelessly to increase our capacity to accommodate this extra demand. However, this has led to a delay in the timeframe and service that we would usually deliver customer orders.
She added: “We are aware some customers have had to wait too long for their order and we sincerely apologise to anyone that has experienced these delays. We have communicated to all customers affected to update them on the situation over the last few weeks. Our customer service team has received an extraordinarily high volume of order queries as a result of delays and are working day and night to answer these.
“We are now making significant progress in getting all overdue orders to customers and are now operating at a seven-day lead time on new orders. We are extremely confident that our customers will see a return to the service that we’re proud to provide shortly.”