With two young daughters who undeniably identify as Swifties, the football playoffs have become a big deal in our house. While they both generally enjoy watching football, things get a lot more interesting when the Chiefs are playing. My youngest daughter just yells for them to throw the ball to Travis Kelce on every play so she can see Taylor Swift celebrate. And while my son and I will be cheering for the 49ers in the Super Bowl, they will be cheering for the Chiefs, because a Chiefs win will make Taylor Swift happy. But the biggest question heading into the Super Bowl is whether or not Swift will be in attendance, now that she has kicked off the Asian leg of her Eras Tour. We have all seen the math, and even with her concert in Tokyo on February 10, she still has time to get to Las Vegas for kickoff thanks to the magic of the international date line. But her biggest challenge, as it turns out, is finding parking for her private plane. In a strange twist, all the parking spaces for private planes in Las Vegas are currently booked, according to the Associated Press. I guess she’ll have to work some of that Taylor magic. And now on to this week’s logistics news.
- Amazon in the news:
- Blue Yonder acquires Flexis
- Logistics hiring ticks up despite soft freight demand
- Trucking sector suffers as retailers destock their pandemic stockpiles
- US expects to make chips funding awards in coming eight weeks
- New Balance debuts brand-owned resale channel
- Delta Cargo and SmartKargo launch DeliverDirect for ecommerce
Branding is a huge part of any company’s business strategy. But sometimes, branding has to take a back seat to sustainability. That’s exactly what Amazon is doing as it with its “Ships in Product Packaging” (SIPP) program, which, as the name suggests, allows products to ship in their original box or bag without any added Amazon packaging. Soon many more Amazon orders will be arriving without that friendly Amazon “over-box,” because as of today SIPP is expanding to all Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) sellers in the U.S. and Canada. Previously only available for Amazon’s first-party products and those of its retail vendors (which have a more traditional, wholesale-style relationship with the company), this represents a huge expansion given that FBA sellers account for the majority of the products sold on Amazon in both the U.S. and Canada. The reasons are many: sustainability, cost savings, delivery efficiency and a better customer experience (for both of Amazon’s customers — the end consumer and its third-party sellers). But perhaps the biggest reason is that Amazon has grown so ubiquitous and so influential that it can.
Amazon Flex is piloting new safety features for its drivers. This follows a series of incidents in which Flex drivers, who use their own cars for deliveries, have reportedly been met with violence or threat by residents: since 2022, five Flex drivers have been shot in four different incidents and five others said they have had guns drawn on them. In many of these incidents, homeowners were reported to have mistaken delivery drivers for intruders due to their cars being unmarked. Amazon is now implementing measures to prevent this, including a feature in its app that would display a Flex driver’s name and photograph to customers awaiting delivery. At this time, the company does not provide customers with any information about who is delivering their packages. In addition, a select group of Flex drivers is being given Amazon-branded merchandise to display on their cars, such as magnets and lights. These will be handed out to drivers beginning this month. Amazon is also working on a text feature automatically alerting customers when a delivery is about to be made. Drivers currently have the option of independently texting customers themselves.
Blue Yonder, a leading supply chain solutions provider, announced its acquisition of flexis AG, a flexible, innovative software technology provider specializing in production optimization and transportation planning and execution. With a robust customer base in the automotive and industrial original equipment manufacturer (OEM) sectors, Flexis strengthens Blue Yonder’s capabilities to help companies with highly configurable products and expansive suppliers to plan and optimize their complex production facilities and network structures. This deal marks Blue Yonder’s second acquisition in the past three months. In November 2023, Blue Yonder acquired Doddle, a leading technology business focused on making the first and last mile more seamless, sustainable and profitable.
Logistics operators added jobs in January, though employment was down over the previous 12 months as companies continue to grapple with a downturn in the goods-moving economy. Trucking, warehousing, and parcel-delivery companies added a combined 10,700 jobs from December to January, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary employment figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industry added jobs at a time when logistics companies have been coping with a faltering freight market for the past 20 months. Employment across the sectors was down by 117,300 jobs in January from a year earlier as companies adjust their payrolls following a two-year hiring spree driven by a surge in e-commerce demand during the pandemic. The growth in logistics hiring came as the broader U.S. economy added a seasonally adjusted 353,000 jobs last month, according to the BLS report, the strongest month in a year.
The U.S. truck freight market ended 2023 with further declines in both shipment volume and spending, according to the latest U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index. Compared to the same period in 2022, fourth quarter shipment volume was down 15.7 percent while spending by shippers contracted 13.5 percent. The year-over-year drop in volume was the largest in the history of the Index. All regions in the fourth quarter felt the slowdown in volume versus the same quarter in 2022, but it was most acute in the Southeast (-25.4 percent) and Northeast (-23.8 percent). Spending also dropped in all regions year over year, with the most significant in the Midwest (-17 percent). The cause of the drop appeared to be a movement by companies to destock their pandemic stockpiles, creating less demand for freight transportation until they begin to restock.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Monday said her department plans to make several funding awards within two months from the government’s $39 billion program to boost semiconductor manufacturing. The semiconductor fund is intended to subsidize chip production and related supply chain investments, and the awards will help build factories and increase production. In December, Raimondo said she expected to make around a dozen semiconductor chips funding awards within the next year, including multi-billion dollar announcements. Raimondo said she is personally involved in regular conversations with chip company CEOs. The department has made two small awards from the “Chips for America” semiconductor manufacturing and research subsidy program approved by Congress in August 2022. Raimondo said she did not think the government was behind in making awards.
New Balance is finally joining the rest of the sneaker industry in getting in on first-party resale. Starting on Monday, the 118-year-old brand is offering New Balance Reconsidered, a program through which customers can exchange their used New Balance sneakers — sent by mail or delivered to a store — for a voucher to use toward their next online purchase. New Balance describes the voucher’s value as “dynamic, based on the seasonality and condition of the product traded in.” Those pre-worn shoes will be sold on New Balance’s online store in a new section of the website labeled Reconsidered. New Balance is the latest brand to make this move, joining the ranks of other sneaker brands like Nike and Adidas. Over the last two years, brand-owned recommere channels have also been launched by a plethora of non-sneaker brands, including Patagonia, The North Face, Steve Madden, Mara Hoffman and Diane von Furstenberg. While the move toward recommerce began in 2022, 2023 showed that the trend had no signs of stopping. Secondhand fashion grew to be a $20 billion market in the U.S. last year.
Delta Cargo, a unit of Delta Air Lines Inc., is offering a new shipping and delivery service through DeliverDirect, an online platform Delta developed with logistics technology firm SmartKargo. Delta says DeliverDirect uses the Delta Air Lines domestic network of more than 2,500 daily flights to offer small-parcel 2-day door-to-door delivery “coast-to-coast.” It adds that DeliverDirect will “soon” launch next-day delivery service. DeliverDirect’s service includes: customized pick-up times for shippers; simultaneous tracking of up to 10 deliveries; geofence notifications of approaching deliveries; dedicated cargo capacity; signature-required deliveries; photo-proof of delivery; and flat and customizable rates.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, the Super Bowl, and the song of the week, Taylor Swift’s Don’t Blame Me.