Customer Focus

IRC 2017 INTERVIEW Peter Ward of the UK Warehousing Association

Ahead of this year’s InternetRetailing and eDelivery conferences, we’re hearing from some of the key speakers who are taking part.

Today the spotlight is on Peter Ward, chief executive, UK Warehousing Association. eDelivery’s Liz Morrell caught up with him to find out more.

eDelivery: What do you think are the biggest issues the retail industry is currently facing around delivery?

Peter Ward, chief executive, UK Warehousing Association: Brexit has intensified the labour/skills shortage that is now a major crisis. The industry has been supported for some years by Eastern European labour that is now leaving in droves, not because of uncertainty as the mainstream media reports, but because the pound is worth 15/20% less than prior to the referendum. It’s not just a shortage of drivers, but a massive shortage of pickers and manual labour in DC’s and fulfilment centres.

ED: Customer expectation continues to be at its highest – how can retailers balance cost and expectation?

PW: Although some of the earlier “madness” = free delivery and free returns – has been addressed, major structural change is needed in the economy. Since mass production took off in the sixties we have evolved to the low cost economy of today, and ultimately consumers will have to pay more for the goods and services expected, and the retailers will play their part in driving for higher prices – otherwise fail to survive.

ED: How important is the delivery experience when it comes to reputation and are retailers doing enough to look after their customers?

PW: The delivery experience has become the only physical interface and interaction in the process, between consumer and retailer – so the whole delivery piece is important. Prior to this, however, is the checkout process. This is where the retailer has the opportunity to provide choice of delivery options, at different price points, and thereby set expectations. Often overlooked by retailers, the checkout process is fundamental in determining the overall customer experience – from basket abandonment at one extreme, to 100% satisfaction at the other.

ED: What do you believe are the most exciting innovations in the pipeline currently?

PW: Those companies that recognise that the customer experience, and therefore the entire business model, is totally driven by the supply chain and logistics – no longer a service to the business it is now the enabler of business success – ASOS, Boohoo, Lesara and some of the pure play retailers are shifting the paradigm – supporting my mantra that logistics is the new retail

ED: There is a session specific to bringing new talent into the industry – what could be done to encourage more young people into the industry and what challenges do we face?

PW: There are massive issues around perception of the industry – it still has the image of old-aged and overweight lorry drivers and fork lift trucks. Ask your kids if they’d like to work in the logistics industry. Then ask them if they’d like to work for Amazon, Google or Virgin.

Also around Brexit: the customs union and ecommerce trade to and from EU countries. This depends on the trade deal negotiated, if any. Imagine the complexities of managing customs duty and taxes on outbound orders, and then same on returns. There are huge complexities that are overlooked by the government – some of the issues we face as the industry’s leading trade association are helping the policy makers to understand.

Peter Ward is chairing the Stand Up & Deliver Conference at the eDelivery Conference and InternetRetailing Conference, which take place on October 5, at the Novotel, Hammersmith, London. One pass gives entry to both events. For further information on the conferences, and to register for your delegate pass, visit www.internetretailingconference.com.