What does the decline of the high street mean for fulfilment services?

Rising ecommerce shops and declining high street stores

According to a recent BBC report, 2014 experienced more than double increase of ecommerce storesthe net shop closures than in 2013, 365 to be exact. Shops are lured by cheaper operations costs as an exclusively online business, or simply unable to cope with the falling footfall high streets are experiencing. But the high street is far from dead, and in many locations as busy as ever. What’s changed is the nature of the shopping street, and that has some significant effects on order fulfilment services.

Traditional retailers may be struggling to compete with the ever-expanding world of e-commerce, but nobody can buy a cup of coffee online. Cafes and coffee shops are going strong, and fulfilment services are likely to see increased orders for food and drink products, as well as the packaging and other frequent deliveries involved. The high street looks set to become more and more of a hub for window-shopping and entertainment, and fulfilment services may see these changes soon.

The favourite new locations for giant retailers such as supermarkets and DIY shops are in out of town retail parks. These are often modern, well-designed complexes with developed delivery capabilities, meaning haulage companies won’t have to wind around busy town centres.

Growth in ecommerce sales

With e-commerce growing, companies are finding creative ways to keep ahead of the orders. The rise of delivery box services could mean more convenience for fulfilment services. The time saved in visiting one location and dropping off packages in the self-service machines, could mean a significant boost in productivity, with drivers able to visit several of these locations in one day. The need for optimum performance and the chance for expansion are at an all time high. Short and reliable lead-times are an absolute must. Retailers are looking to invest in their logistical chains, or build new ones, and all aspects of the industry need to be able to function with maximum capacity.

In order to handle high levels of orders, warehouses are under increasing pressure to shorten their picking and packing time frames, and new technology and practices are set to promise just this. Automation is nothing new, and steady advances in the industry have been felt by all working in warehouses. In a not so distant future headsets could be used to direct people towards particular items. Using just regular sized glasses, these headsets can display guiding arrows. The potential for time saved means a warehouse can process more and more orders, ultimately increasing it’s capabilities of taking on new work.

A big challenge brought up by the decline of the high street is in the need for more warehouse space, and larger capacity warehouses. In order to deal with the boom in e-commerce, fulfilment services are looking to invest in the amount of stock they can manage at any one time. However, with the size of the price tag for land matching the colossal size of the new structure, it’s often more economical to expand existing premises.

Retail is still going strong. It’s the nature and location of selling that’s shifting, and it’s the responsibility of the retailers to recognise the potential of a strong logistics department for securing their future.

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