Monday 20th Nov 2017 - Logistics Manager

What to do with all those vans?

I don’t know about you, but if I had a massive van fleet operating from 214 depots delivering 10.5 million items a week, I would be thinking about ways of selling that service to other people.

The thought is sparked by the news that Sainsbury has just hit £1 billion sales for its online grocery business.

Since the business was first launched in 1999, it has grown to employ more than 10,000 people either in-store or as drivers. Sainsbury’s delivery drivers travelled 43 million miles last year, and they are delivering more than 10.5 million items every week to 96 per cent of UK postcodes.

And of course it is not just Sainsbury. Tesco has more than 3,000 home delivery vehicles handling more than half a million deliveries every week. At the last count, Asda had about 1,600 delivery vans – and then there is Ocado, and Morrisons is moving into the market.

It all makes for a lot more vans on the road delivering to people’s homes (and that is without even touching on the B2C parcel specialists).

I am sure that the major supermarket chains are only interested in using these burgeoning resources to increase their online grocery sales. The idea that the van fleets could be profit centres in their own right would, understandably, be greeted with withering laughter.

Nevertheless, as these services become more mature, the arguments for some measure of consolidation will increase – not only from an environmental perspective, but also from a financial one.  The question is, when will that point be reached?