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Editorial: Not all publicity is good publicity after all


In government press offices there is a phrase that sometimes gets used to warn of impending bad publicity – the Daily Mail moment. Who would have thought that a warehouse would have had one of those?
But that’s precisely what happened in the case of Sports Direct’s distribution centre in Shirebrook, Derbyshire. Earlier this week, the company’s founder, Mike Ashley, was grilled by MPs on the business select committee in response to a series of complaints regarding pay and working practices.

The litany of bad press covered everything from OTT security checks of staff at the end of their shifts, which may have had the effect of lengthening their working day and therefore pushing their hourly rate of pay below legal limits, through to one story of an employee giving birth in the DC’s toilets out of fear of losing her job had she stayed away. Over the course of a two year period, ambulances were called out to the DC on 76 occasions, and more than three quarters of staff have zero-hours contracts.

It’s another example of how labour relations and working practices in what were once out-of-sight-out-of-mind parts of the business are now gaining prominence. Last month, we reported on the risk of strike action at Argos, and a protest against XPO Logistics in New York.

This isn’t the summer of love – no one is going to seriously advocate being nice to your staff because it will bring you good karma, man. But with public awareness of the mechanics of delivery on the rise, there are undoubtedly going to be implications for those that find themselves having a Daily Mail moment. In the case of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley came in for a savaging from Mail columnist Quentin Letts. “You could no more attack this unconventional jabberer than you could eat pea soup with a fork. One moment the buck stopped with him, then none of it was his fault. The company had outgrown him but he was the only one who could get these things done,” Letts wrote.

For a while the Sports Direct share price rallied, inexplicably, but it subsequently fell again.

Whether it’s the quality of the home delivery service, the length of time they have to queue for a collection, the ease with which returns can be made, or the employment conditions of DC staff and drivers, the public sees much more now than it used to. It’s hard to imagine that not making any difference to some people’s attitudes and behaviour.

Another issue that I’m revisiting is click-and-collect, and whether in-store collection has had its day. In the second of my features on that topic, you can find out what Liam Chennells from Shutl, and Mark Hennessy from Pelipod think.

Elsewhere in eDelivery, we turn our eyes east and consider Europe. There’s that referendum later this month that it’s hard to switch off from; we have Stuart Godman, Chief Strategy Officer at DX sharing his thoughts on that with us. We also take a little trip back in time to this time last year, and retrieve from the magazine archive a feature that compares ecommerce delivery in France, Germany, and the UK.

For the next print edition of eDelivery, I’ll be writing about returns in relation to the end-of-year peak period. On the site this week, we have a guest article from Niklas Hedin, CEO of Centiro, on how the peak is now a long distance race, not a sprint.

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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