It’s been a crazy week here for me. I’ve been working on finishing up our omni-channel strategic report, scoping my soon-to-launch omni-channel market study, and took a quick two day trip to the Waldorf Astoria in New York City for SAP’s Retail Forum. It was a great conference with lots of great speakers and sessions (which you will most likely be reading about here in the coming weeks). So let’s get right to this week’s news.
- NRF’s letter to the ILWU and PMA: strike a deal
- UPS launches locker test for online parcel pickup
- Amazon in the news:
- Curbside delivery app offers omni-channel convenience
- DOT Freight Transportation Index rises to record high in August
On Thursday, October 9, the National Retail Federation (NRF) sent a letter to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) urging the two parties to conclude their contract negotiations. I have written about the issues with the contract here before, as retailers have been rushing to get holiday inventory into the US before a strike occurs, halting all activities. NRF has cited the ongoing contract negotiations for impacting the retail supply chain, destroying contingency plans, and contributing to the ongoing port congestion. The letter states:
We urge the parties to quickly come to a conclusion on a new labor agreement as a means to resolve the ongoing congestion issues impacting the West Coast ports. At a minimum, we ask that the parties extend the expired contract through November in order to reinstate arbitration agreements, which are preventing many issues at the ports from being addressed.
Retailers are now in the midst of their heaviest shipping season of the year preparing for the upcoming holidays, which are a ‘make it or break it’ time for retailers and merchants. While we recognize that there are many reasons for the current port congestion, there is no doubt that the lack of a new labor contract between PMA and the ILWU is having a big impact on port productivity, particularly in Southern California.
E-commerce was a major boon to UPS. As retailers needed efficient ways to ship their goods, UPS was happy to answer the call. The only drawback has been actual deliveries. If the customer needed to sign for a package, they needed to stay home waiting for the doorbell to ring. If they missed the delivery, they might need to drive to a UPS location to pick up the package. Well, UPS is ready to change that. The company is running a test in the Chicago market where packages are left in lockers for customers to pick up at their convenience. The lockers allow the customer to pick up their package when they want it. And it also allows drivers to be more efficient. Rather than making hundreds of home deliveries, the driver can drop off a number of packages at a single locker location. It cuts down on total operating costs and allows the drivers to deliver more packages in a given day. The only real question is whether people will actually want to leave their house to get their packages.
Amazon is keeping busy. First, the company has announced plans to sell large appliances in India during the festive sales season leading up to Diwali. Most online retailers in India will not sell large appliances due to the difficult nature of delivering them. Amazon, however, is bucking the trend. With its’ new warehouses across India, it certainly has a leg up on the competition with the ability to stock the appliances in multiple locations.
Additionally, Amazon is looking to open its’ first ever brick and mortar location. According to reports from CNBC and the Wall Street Journal, the company is planning to open a brick and mortar location in midtown Manhattan in time for the holiday season. While this is not exactly what people think of when they think of Amazon, it could help alleviate some of the holiday headaches of years past (2013 was especially rough for Amazon).
Palo Alto, Calif.–based delivery service Curbside launched this week. The service operates through a free mobile app that allows shoppers to find products that are in stock at multiple local stores and check out through the app. Many store locations will feature designated curbside pickup locations where shoppers can pick up their without having to park or get out of their car. The Curbside app’s location technology notifies the staff that shoppers are approaching for a pickup. The push for click and collect is really shining through this week.
And finally, the Department of Transportation’s freight transportation services index rose to a record high in August. The index increased 3.8% to 120.9 in August, the highest level since records began in 2000. The previous record 120.3 was set in May. The freight TSI increased 0.6% from July, rising for the second consecutive month, DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics said in its monthly report. DOT uses a baseline reading of 100 from the year 2000. Truck, water and pipeline freight increased, but rail and air declined, BTS said.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, You Can Call Me Al, by Paul Simon.