19 December, 2014
John Lewis launches click and collect within the station
John Lewis has opened a retail shop in the concourse inside St Pancras International railway station, London, where it will not only retail a selected range of products to commuters, but will also offer a click and collect services for products bought online.
The opening represents a significant development in the evolution of delivery solutions. Commuter railway stations have long been recognised as ideal potential locations for click and collect sites, and ByBox installed third-party locker banks in a few major stations some years ago. Since then Network Rail has launched its own high-profile Doddle collection point system.
John Lewis has now demonstrated an alternative approach, in which the retailer operates its own station site, and takes advantage of retail footfall at the same time.
Amazon ramps up its drop-off delivery network
Amazon.co.uk is establishing a network of 500 collection points for home shopping at newsagents’ shops, operating in cooperation with Connect Group, the owner of Smiths News, the newspaper distributor. It is calling the service Pass my Parcel.
As part of the development Amazon is offing same-day deliveries through selected stores. Consumers are able to order up to 11.45am for delivery to the store by 4pm the same day.
Amazon Prime customers are being offered this facility free of charge for the time being. "This is our fastest pick-up service yet," says managing director Christopher North.
There is also an Express Morning collection option, under which orders placed up to 7.45 pm are available for guaranteed collection the next morning. Amazon says the item will be delivered from 6.30am onwards, and no later than 9am (depending on the store opening time).
The arrangement with Smiths is unusual. Until now most retailers offering a drop-off service have used either their own stores (not an option for Amazon, of course) or a third-party service such as CollectPlus. Amazon in fact does use CollectPlus, but the Pass my Parcel offer is a separate branded service exclusive to Amazon.
In practice, the various offers all contribute to a drive by the company to smooth the delivery process. It says it now has 6,000 pick-up points in all, including several hundred Amazon Lockers (believed to include more than 100 at Cooperative stores).
Whistl hits the ground running (or wheeling)
Whistl (usually with a lower-case "w") is the new brand name of the UK-based operations of PostNL that were formerly known as TNT Post.
Following the separation of TNT Post from TNT Express in 2011, it was always intended that the postal business would adopt new branding by the end of 2014.
The company says the whistl name "reflects happy people" and describes a natural expression of exuberance. The orange colour of course provides a reminder of the strong TNT brand, though it is of a different shade.
Post Office trials returns via third-party convenience stores
The Post Office has ramped up its offering in the click and click space by launching a trial returns drop-off service using third-party convenience stores and garages – the same types of location used by rival delivery solution specialists such as Collect Plus.
The difference is that these outlets will operate alongside the 11,500 Post Office branches that already provide a returns-drop off capability.
The new offer, which initially involves 150 trial sites, has been put together in association with Royal Mail. Participating retailers provide a pre-paid Royal Mail returns label along with the home shopping consignment, and consumers simply peel this off, attach it to the parcel, and take this to one of the new stores as an alternative to leaving it at a post office.
One of the attractions of using the additional outlets is that many will offer longer opening hours than existing post offices. However, the organisation points out that 5,000 of its own outlets now do offer extended opening hours for home shopping customers. On average, according to Post Office figures, this appears to work out at about four extra hours’ trading per day.
Meanwhile, at least 5,000 small and medium-sized business are said to have signed up to the Local Collect pick-up service already offered by Royal Mail and the Post Office since it was revamped last year. This is available at 10,500 Post Office branches. There is no indication yet of whether the full Local Collect service will be extended to the third-party outlets in the returns trial.
London Underground trials home shopping collection points
London Underground car parks are the latest locations to be adopted by the retail market as alternative delivery points for home shopping.
In rapid succession Asda, Tesco and Waitrose have announced plans to trial the concept at various stations in London’s outer suburbs, and in a separate but related move, locker-bank company InPost has announced that it has reached agreement with Transport for London to install its box banks in London Underground car parks.
The three retailers have moved cautiously into the idea. Asda, for instance, is understood to have launched the concept by stationing a delivery van in the car park from a designated time each day (4pm has been mentioned). The initial stations were East Finchley, Epping, Harrow and Wealdstone, High Barnet, Highgate and Stanmore.
Omnica acquired by Columbus software group
Omnica, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of multi-channel fulfilment software, has been acquired by Columbus, a major international software group with origins in Denmark. The price has not been disclosed.
Omnica was founded in 2007, and saw rapid growth under the leadership of managing director Harry Manley, who previously cut his teeth with rival Maginus. It focused from the start on the Microsoft Dynamics platform, which is also a speciality of Columbus.
It quickly built up an extensive customer base, amongst which are brands such as Lucky Vitamin, Eason and Direct Wines. It is understood to have a work force of 30 employees, which is substantial for a specialised developer in this sector.
Columbus has been vigorously acquisitive over many years, and has a achieved a strong global presence through subsidiaries and agencies. Its turnover in 2012 was just short of DKK 900 million.
The company says Omnica appealed because of its "deep engagement and knowledge within the retail industry". According to chief executive Thomas Honoré: "With Omnica as part of our business we will gain unrivalled knowledge and insights in this field."
Harry Manley adds: "With Columbus’s global reach we can expand into new markets and take our multi-channel retail solutions to new levels."