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Editor’s comment: FedEx TNT done deal, is Amazon’s b2b threat real, and logistics with a punk rock feel


It’s 40 years since the birth of punk. Don’t be fooled by the whiteness of my beard, I was actually too young for all that and it completely passed me by. But what has that got to do with retail logistics?
It wasn’t until 1979 that the Clash released London Calling, one of the punk era’s most iconic singles, and also the title of a double album released that same year. With its clarion call to the rest of the world, or the UK at least, the song became an anthem and remains popular almost 40 years on.

The logistics connection..? OK I’m getting to that and I admit it may be tenuous, but the line come out of your cupboards you boys and girls, although obviously never written with the retail sector in mind, strikes me as rather apt when I’ve got my eDelivery day-job hat on.

As I’ve written and said countless times, never before in retail has the back office been more visible, more important; with more shoppers relying on fulfillment, getting delivery right can make or break a customer relationship. The same goes for collections and returns, of course, but you knew that already.

It’s rather timely that this very week we have two stories that show the importance of people as part of the overall service proposition.

The first concerns the €4.4bn takeover of TNT Express by FedEx, which was formally concluded this very day. The word ‘people’ was used so many times by the company’s CEO (and his European counterpart) that I lost count. OK, I admit I wasn’t actually counting – I was too busy making notes. But there was a great deal of emphasis placed on the importance of the people within FedEx and TNT and a lot of reassurances being offered about the acquisition not being the precursor to job losses. The two companies had great cultures, I was told. The new combined company will benefit from that, as will the employees and the customers.

Continuing to deliver great service to retailers is – or should be – a never ending concern for all carriers. But the bald facts are it’s harder for larger organisations, with processes and strictures to follow, to be as agile and nimble as upstart startups can be. Similarly, there are cost savings to be potentially made by divesting and/or outsourcing part of what you do to someone with expertise in areas that maybe aren’t where your focus lies. All of which creates tension, which may lead to conflict. Perhaps that’s what’s behind the decision by Unite – the trade union – to ballot members at Argos’s Magna Park site on the decision to transfer their employment to another provider.

One of the points discussed at the FedEx / TNT press conference this morning was the idea that Amazon represents a commercial threat to carriers – something that was given pretty short shrift. But one area where Amazon is making investments at the moment is in b2b delivery. It’s a service that is in beta in the UK, but in the US it’s seen 20% year on year growth since launching in 2012. Mark Thornton, marketing director at Maginus, writes for us on what this means for the UK b2b delivery sector.

From the most recent eDelivery Magazine, I’ve pulled out one of the Retail Review series of features, where a panel of three consultants give their appraisal of how a particular retailer handles delivery, collection, and returns. This time round, it’s John Lewis. This is a business famous for great service, but one that hasn’t been without criticism in recent times. So how did our panel rate it?

We still need your help researching the future of fulfillment and in return for you spending just a few minutes on this online survey, we’ll enter you into a competition to win an Apple Watch. The opinions of eDelivery readers will be an important part of the white paper I’ll be writing later this summer, so please let me know your thoughts.

And finally, from a purely personal standpoint, I turned my attentions to the Ocado/Fetch returns process this week. For the uninitiated, Fetch is the pet goods offer from online grocery retailer Ocado. I interviewed Ocado’s head of general merchandising at EDX16 in April, and one of the things we talked about was how the retailer handles the returns. I couldn’t wait to find out and when I foolishly bought a collar for my dog that was far too big I didn’t need to wait any longer. If you want to see how I got on, or just want to see a photo of my three month old Jack Russell, Henry, read on.

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.

You can also join our LinkedIn group for analysis and networking as it happens, or if you want your updates in real-time find us on Twitter @edeliverynet.

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