Since the 2016 referendum which delivered Brexit, the prospect of the UK’s leaving the European Union has arguably been the dominant economic issue.
With the scheduled date of formal withdrawal only a month away, a special debate hosted by CAE Delivers on the eve of this year’s MetaPack Delivery Conference has made clear how some of the country’s leading retail brands are doing their best to overcome the considerable challenges which it poses.
As CAE Delivers highlighted earlier this month (https://caedelivers.com/news/chaos-and-clarity-helping-clients-planning-for-commercial-life-after-brexit/), the lack of clarity about whether Brexit will be completed with a negotiated settlement, without a deal or will even happen at all, has meant shippers and their delivery partners having to plan for the worst case scenario: hard borders and tariffs.
A discussion chaired by the Daily Telegraph’s Retail Editor, Ashley Armstrong, and featuring both CAE Delivers’ Managing Director, Jamie Knapper, and Michael Roberts of The Body Shop as panellists underlined the scale of contingency measures being adopted and the possible consequences of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit for those hoping to continue serving consumers in the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe.
A number of participants indicated that the burden of working to ensure that EU withdrawal didn’t affect business was being disproportionately felt by smaller retailers lacking the ability of their larger counterparts to devote the necessary resources to developing specific Brexit strategies of their own.
However, it also demonstrated how withdrawal from the EU is not the only topic occupying the minds of retailers at the moment.
For instance, despite having one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in Europe, the discussion panellists and audience alike agreed that the Republic of Ireland continues to have significant untapped potential.
There was also wide agreement that one of the obstacles to doing so lies in being able to successfully address an ever-increasing volume of returns – something which Jamie Knapper and Michael Roberts both acknowledged was “a necessity”.
Roughly one-third of all goods bought from UK retailers are currently sent back and, Mr Knapper described how CAE Delivers was devising new initiatives to help retailers not only cope with the two-way traffic in product but maintain essential standards of customer service.
Some of the debate audience added that brands were even looking to profile those shoppers regarded as generating particularly high return volumes.
The suggestion that the need to balance swift, convenient and cost-effective deliveries with efficient returns processes risked prompting a ‘race to the bottom’ was rebutted by CAE Delivers.
Even so, Mr Knapper outlined how the task of maintaining a delivery infrastructure and being competitive on price meant that there was a possibility of reaching a ‘pressure point’ – a limit on how low carriers were prepared to take their rates – in the near future.
Above all, the debate reinforced how creative the delivery industry is in trying to support the requirements of both online and high street retail while meeting the uncertainties represented by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
To hear more about how CAE Delivers’ preparations can help your business whatever the outcome of Brexit, visit Jamie Knapper and colleagues on stand 26 at the MetaPack Delivery Conference at the Royal Lancaster Hotel or contact our head office on 0161 872 6893.