It’s a huge festive operation, with around 2,000 little helpers working round the clock to ensure no-one is disappointed on Christmas Day.
But I’m not talking about Santa’s winter wonderland - this is Leeds Mail Centre in Stourton, where staff yesterday handled more than 3.5m parcels and letters on what was Royal Mail’s busiest day of the year.
Royal Mail has taken on a staggering 19,000 extra seasonal workers across the UK – 450 of which are here in Leeds – to help with the massive demands of the festive rush.
And their specially-created Christmas parcel sorting centre in Wakefield is a similar hive of activity, with a further 400 extra staff diligently dealing with mountains of post daily.
They are supporting the firm’s 124,000 permanent postmen and women who sort and deliver the mail all year round, to deliver a first class Christmas for all their customers.
And the YEP went behind the scenes at the Leeds base yesterday to watch hundreds of them in action on their busiest day, ahead of the recommended last posting date of December 20.
A couple of Christmas trees glittered among the sea of red, and a few Santa hats and reindeer antlers could be spotted bobbing between the huge crates, crammed to capacity with boxes destined for everywhere from Swinnow to Seattle.
The huge increase in online shopping over the past five years has led to a massive growth in parcels delivery, with the Leeds centre handling around 10 per cent more packages this Christmas than last Christmas.
Last night the Leeds workers’ efforts rivalled those of Santa’s elves on Christmas Eve as 500 of them scurried around the 25,733 sq m building, doing all they could to ensure those eagerly-anticipated gifts make it under the Christmas tree in time.
James Jack, plant manager, said: “Next week the resource will probably tail off a bit but there will still be about 1,200 still working here.
“The success criteria for us is that there is no mail left on Christmas Eve – it’s all with our customers.”
And without a magical sleigh or trusty reindeer to transport their hefty hauls, Royal Mail schedules extra flights and train journeys to whisk our presents to some of the UK’s most isolated addresses. Mr Jack said parcel sizes ranged from “bean bags to ipads” and post sorter Lisa Jackson revealed the contents of some packages were slightly more unusual.
“We get a lot of dummies in envelopes at this time of year.
“Parents tell their children to give Santa their dummies in exchange for presents then post them off.”
The grandmother-of-three, from Swillington, said she had handled five “Santa dummies” already this Christmas so the total number passing through the Leeds centre could be huge.
The Leeds plant is the second biggest in the country, serving seven postcode areas, including Bradford and Harrogate.
The sheer scale of the operation means planning begins back in June, with everyone focused on the task of delivering a great Christmas.
Israr Ahmed, parcel manager at the centre, keeps morale levels high when people are working harder and longer than usual, with “Isy’s huddle” each morning.
Mr Jack said: “He never stops. And at times like this you need that energy.”