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Logistics companies must adapt to the changing retail environment

Companies seeking to offset the impact of the high street’s collapse with growing emphasis on online sales will need to appoint a logistics partner with the right skills sets to support them, says William Walker.

The best support

The Coronavirus lockdown and the resultant collapse of the high street has left many  of the companies that had always relied on retail outlets as their main channel to the end consumers of their products with little option but to develop their direct B2C online sales operations.

But, this change of emphasis requires a completely different approach to order fulfilment and, if anecdotal evidence is to be believed, a significant number of companies have been hampered in their efforts to offset flat-lining high street sales through online channels by the shortcomings of their logistics operation.

Indeed, if the recent enquiries we have received are a reflection of the broader market picture, many businesses have been discovering (to their cost) that their existing logistics partner might be great at moving pallets around, but in a lot of cases, they cannot offer the kind of services that a high volume internet retail operation needs.

Simply put, the fact is that supplying pallet loads of product from a warehouse or distribution centre to a retail outlet is a relatively straightforward process, but many third party logistics services companies are often not interested in - or don’t have the relevant skill sets to undertake the sophisticated order fulfilment tasks that internet retailers need.

It is no secret that the high street has been losing ground to online sales for a long while and it seems inevitable that the period of enforced closure prompted by the emergence of Covid-19 will only serve to hasten the decline of the relevance of bricks and mortar stores in post-Coronavirus Britain.

Retailers and their suppliers will have to adapt to the challenges of a retail environment in which the need to ‘socially distance’ is set to be with us for some time and will inevitably drive more of those shoppers who remain loyal to the high street experience to opt to source their clothes, cosmetics, food etc etc etc online.

Many third party logistics services suppliers will have to reinvent themselves too and those that cannot offer the value-added services needed by the growing number of companies who will shift emphasis away from retail sales towards marketing their brands directly to consumers via online channels, face an uncertain future.

William Walker is sales director of online order fulfilment specialist, Walker Logistics.

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