The coronavirus pandemic threw the UK’s High Streets into crisis, with more than 17,500 chain stores and other venues closing last year – that’s an average rate of 48 closures a day. Even as IntraLogisteX was opening its doors this week on 1st and 2nd July, clothing retailer GAP was announcing that it was closing its 80 or so bricks-and-mortar outlets, to focus on online retail. In truth, the High Street was changing before Covid-19 though. The big question is, what is it changing into?
James Smith from AutoStore gave his vision of a possible scenario at IntraLogisteX in a presentation at the end of day two of the free-to-attend conference session and Logistics Manager sat down to hear what he had to say. “Shifting expectations around not only speed but ease of delivery, amplified by the ‘Amazon-ifcation’ of e-commerce, mean that consumers are looking for elevated delivery solutions across the board – whether they are ordering from their local supermarket or an exclusive boutique,” says Smith, Managing Director of AutoStore UK.
“Driving this consumer trend is a focus on urban last-mile fulfilment services, as retailers shift from out-of-town warehouses to micro-fulfilment centres which can meet customers where they are,” Smith continues. “By putting more stock into such centres, retailers will be able to meet increasingly tight delivery windows.”
Adopting this model also offers real promise for the High Street. “By developing the empty spaces left behind by decreasing footfall, and utlising them as micro-fulfilment centres, retailers can provide consumers with centrally located, easy collection points, which in turn enable rapid delivery times and a fresh driver of dwell time in new ‘hybrid’ shop-cum-delivery hub spaces.”
Smith illustrated the case by using a case study from Germany. With an AutoStore system empowered by Element Logic, also exhibiting at IntraLogisteX, outdoor and extreme sport specialist eXXpozed, an AutoStore system was integrated one floor below the shop, on an area of only 450m². With the perfectly co-ordinated intralogistics and the resulting minimal order throughput time, eXXpozed is now able to meet the growing demand and customer requirements for fast and punctual delivery. Since the central warehouse is located directly under the retail store, eXXpozed can always also offer a very wide and deep product range in the store.
Smith doesn’t disagree with the notion that that the concept is ‘Argos 5.0’. “Currently, the supply chain industry is still heavily reliant on an industrial model, centralised fulfilment and supply chains, but this model will not be able to facilitate the needs of future consumers in the long-term.
“Meeting this challenge requires urban micro fulfilment solutions to reduce delivery miles and time. This approach will also pay-off in terms of sustainability – a metric consumers are increasingly looking to when choosing which brands to spend with. Investment in robust last-mile urban fulfilment and micro fulfilment solutions will play a large part in reducing travel times and therefore emissions, with the hope that further down the line the delivery can be carried out by electric autonomous vehicles.”
AutoStore is exhibiting at IntraLogisteX on Stand 200, while its partner Element Logic is on Stand 510