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The Argos distraction, Alibaba’s cave, and recouping failed delivery costs


Have the Aussies cracked the costly problem of failed first time delivery? Probably not, to be fair. But they’ve given me food for thought.
Australia is an incredible country, as you’ll no doubt know if you’ve been; all the clichés apply … the weather, the beaches, the ocean, the weather, the friendly people, did I mention the weather..?

But for all that, just like everywhere else, Australia has a problem with failed deliveries. And just like everywhere else there’s a cost involved with returning items to a depot, processing their status, notifying the customer, and storing them safely until the customer comes to collect it.

Australia Post is going to start charging AU$3 a week to hang on to your package if you keep them waiting more than five days. The most you’ll be charged is AU$9, which is about £4.50 and roughly the cost of having a book delivered.

There’s no additional service being provided, this is a straight forward claw back of costs. Maybe it’s not very different from the likes of John Lewis charging for in-store click-and-collect if the order value is below a certain limit. But the mechanics of the interaction between resident and post office are not the same as those between shopper and retailer.

I’ve talked to a few people about this, in both the northern and southern hemispheres, and some really good points have been put forward. Do customers need to see themselves as part of the problem and/or part of the solution? How can customers become partners in the delivery process?

It’s a tricky one to answer simply, but it seems to me that – like so much in life – it all boils down to the need for great communication. If you want customers to feel like they are a partner in something first you have to tell them, but you also have to give them something to buy into. Something that goes deeper than “we’re sending you those shoes you bought. You better be in.”

Last week, Sainsbury’s released its latest set of results. Pre-tax profits of £587m compare well with the loss of £72m recorded the prior year. Things aren’t plain sailing though, and one financial analyst has warned that the forthcoming acquisition of Argos might prove to be a destabilising distraction. One plus one doesn’t always equal two when it comes to mergers and acquisitions, of course. So will Argos be a burden that stops Sainsbury’s being able to respond to counter-competitive action from Asda or Tesco? Time alone will tell.

Alibaba has also recently announced results, and with its scale and reach it could give Jeff Bezos something other to think about than space travel. Revenues might be up almost 40% but, in a guest article written for us, David Jinks of Fastlane International, reckons there are still questions hanging over the quality of the treasures lurking in Alibaba’s cave.

Last month, the latest edition of eDelivery Magazine was published. I’ve highlighted two of the features from it for you. The first is a report from executive editor Emma Herrod on the impact on retailers and carriers of the 1bn parcels shipped in 2015. The second examines how retailers are working to stop returns becoming a financial drain, and was written by my own fair hand. Well, both hands to be accurate.

Elsewhere on eDelivery, you’ll find news of iForce and Fortnum & Mason, as well as a £3.25m acquisition in Scotland by DX.

In the meantime, if you haven’t subscribed to eDelivery yet we’d love it if you did. You’ll get a weekly newsletter summarising the main stories we’ve covered, and we’ll keep you informed of other big announcements. But we won’t spam you – you don’t like spam, do you? We don’t. You’ll find details on subscribing here. And if you’re not receiving a copy of the magazine you’ll find details on that too.

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