Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Will better distribution help eCommerce in Scotland?

If you live in Scotland, and in particular the West Coast of Scotland from the Clyde Estuary up to the Hebrides, you will no-doubt have seen the Oban Express van as it whizzed past.*

However last week logistics group John Menzies acquired Oban Express with the wonderful claim that it could “transform e-commerce in remote parts of Scotland”.

The aim is that this take-over should give this large facilities and distribution company a greater geographical reach, by including the 45-strong vehicle fleet that typically runs between Glasgow and the West. This acquisition, driven by online retailing, also follows the purchase in June of this year of AJG Parcels of Inverness.The integration of both companies into the group should apparently "help keep down the cost of deliveries on behalf of national carriers to more isolated areas".

However, in my opinion, there can only be a truly better ecommerce delivery approach in Scotland if:
  1. Companies such as Menzies invest in these recent purchases and grow the capacity of their operations in remote areas.
  2. Travel networks (e.g. roads) are improved
    E.g. it doesn't matter how far or fast the van goes, if it is stuck behind a slow driver on the single-carriage all the way up to Fort William or waiting for a land-slide to be cleared on the Inveraray road.
  3. Big and small ecommerce companies alike stop charging unfair amounts for deliveries to the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
    E.g. I live 12 miles from Glasgow and was recently charged a premium by one company for shipping a small parcel (a mobile phone)!
  4. This is accompanied by the roll-out of decent broadband internet, which is still incredibly patchy across a lot of the land north of the English border.

* Dear Top Gear, here's an idea. Stop featuring bloody Italian supercars or unobtainable Aston Martins on your programme and do a piece on the amazing handling & performance characteristics of the Ford Transit and Iveco vans driven by the courier services to the North of Glasgow!

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