If you think your Christmas is chaotic, try walking a mile in the shoes of the staff at Sheffield Mail Centre.
Millions of Christmas cards, party invitations and letters to Santa - in addition to the normal day-to-day mail - make their way through the centre’s well-oiled systems in the weeks leading up to the big day.
Plant manager Jon Adams said: “Obviously Christmas is our busiest time and we’re committed to making sure everything gets where it needs to go as quickly as possible at this time of year.
“Around two million items pass through this building every 24 hours, including around 200,000 parcels.
“Half of these are going out to addresses in the Sheffield area, the other half are leaving the city and going out to other parts of the UK. We process everything as quickly as possible and get it back out on the road to its final destination. Just less than 94 per cent of all items we handle are delivered the very next day.”
And this year, following an extensive £30m investment that’s seen the centre, on Brightside Lane, extended by 3,000 sq ft, the festive job really is bigger than it’s ever been before.
Jon said: “We’ve got about a 25 per cent increase in terms of volume of items passing through.
“We’ve spent the last 18 months investing in and extending the centre and have just started handling items from Hull and Doncaster, in preparation for the closure of their plants next year, which will see all of their mail redirected to us.
“There’s no doubt it’s a chaotic time for us. We’re also much busier in terms of parcel growth - online retailers have a really big impact on us and we’re already starting to see that reflected in our numbers.
“To keep up with the demand we’ve hired about 2,000 casuals who will work alongside our own staff, supporting them, at this time of year. Our centre is open 24/7 so it’s a busy place to be at Christmas time.”
But that’s not to say the atmosphere isn’t festive. Jolly, smiling staff jig to Christmas tunes blasting out across the plant floor as they go about their work.
“We’re a big family here and we’re all dedicated to doing our job as well as we can, to make sure nobody is left disappointed at Christmas,” said Jon.
Though one thing Jon says he will not miss, once Christmas is over for another year, is the glitter that falls out of envelopes and clogs up his machines.
To prove a point, Jon hoists up the lid of a nearby machine and runs a finger along the base, pulling it out to reveal evidence of a thick layer of sparkle which has congealed on the bottom.
He said: “We do have to stop the machines from time to time, because the glitter has built up and clear them out a bit. It’s just an occupational hazard at this time of year. Another one is all the dark red envelopes and the sparkly glittery pens used to address them, which our machines struggle to read, meaning there is a lot more sorting by sight to be done, but it’s all part of it.”
But Jon does have one message for the people of Sheffield as to how they can help to keep things moving throughout the festive period.
“I’d ask you all to remember to write clearly and legibly and include full addresses with full postcodes as much as possible,” he said. “This is a big help to us and will ensure that your mail gets where it needs to as quickly as possible.”
Last posting date for second class mail is December 18 and first class is December 20. For more information, visit www.royalmail.com