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Editor's blog: Working safely during COVID-19

Editor Kirsty Adams reflects on safety guidance for warehouse operators during the pandemic.

I recently read the UK Government’s guidelines for working safely during COVID-19 in warehouses, plants and factories. It didn’t take me long to realise how naïve I’d been in my understanding of what COVID-19 means for warehouse workplace management. 

Operating under these guidelines is no mean feat. The HR team and warehouse manager will need to work side-by-side to meet – as the guidelines state – ‘steps that will usually be needed.’ 

It’s important to recognise the importance of communication here. Staff need to feel confident their employer is doing everything it can to keep them protected from harm. As do contractors, suppliers and other service providers. So, tell them. (See p12 of our the latest issue of SHD Logistics magazine for further advice on this).

Rules at work can influence our lives outside of work. If colleagues are physically distancing on their warehouse shifts, using screens or barriers, working back-to-back or side-to-side, taking staggered breaks, they’re probably less likely to head to a beach on a hot day with thousands of others, and cosy up in the ice-cream queue. I think it would go against the grain.

There isn’t a timeline on how long these measures will be encouraged for. But the investment from businesses is permanent, and I fear it could be too much for some – already struggling – operators.

However now is not the time to stand still, when it comes to workplace management or your business model. In a recent webinar hosted by SHD Logistics, top advice from Maureen O’Shea, operations lead partner for KPMG UK, is -move forward at a pace.

 She says ‘wait and see’ is a dangerous approach and that “key ‘no regret’ moves should be identified now… such as a supplier deep dive… and workforce planning.” She also reminds us that as we plan, not to forget about Brexit, and to ensure plan X also covers a no-deal scenario. 

Reconfiguring business models, intense workplace management and Brexit planning should not be on any to do list all at once, but alas... Thankfully logisticians are able problem solvers. 


Editor's Blog: Health of the High Street

As retailer Next announces a drop in sales of 52%, editor Kirsty Adams blogs on the health of the high street.

The health of retail has featured heavily across media outlets in recent weeks. Next has seen a 41% plunge in full-price sales over its first quarter (to April 25), with high street sales down 52% and online sales off 32%.

The effects of the pandemic are expected to leave sales lower in every quarter for the retailer, even after lockdown restrictions are lifted.

In mid-April Next sold three of its warehouses to Aviva Investors as part of a deal to raise cash to cover the coronavirus lockdown. The sale price was reported to be close to £50 million. Tough times.

According to the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank (RTT), the pandemic has sealed the fate for many retailers, especially those deemed ‘non-essential’.

The retail landscape will certainly be different once lockdown is lifted. The sector has been reinventing itself for years, and with thousands of high street stores closing, there’s been significant winners and losers. The reinvention, the winners and the loss are ramping up.

Retail expert Prof. Neil Ashworth told me once that the high street isn't dead, it's transforming, and we should be patient. Has COVID-19 meant we’ve run out of time?

This week locked down at home, listening to BBC Radio 4, I heard retail guru Mary Portas say that the high street will be a "laboratory" post-lockdown, and should take a “trial and error” approach. I thought this was a helpful and positive way to consider what's going to happen to our high streets next.

Of course, the first step, is to re-open. B&Q are back up and running, and have released a film demonstrating the new social distancing measures instore. Greggs will also begin opening shops on 4 May in Newcastle as part of a controlled trial.

As shops open, warehouses can start moving goods again and free up storage space, congested with inbound flows with nowhere to go and which - according to UKWA CEO Peter Ward – have continued to arrive at our ports from overseas, fulfilling orders placed before lockdown was declared.

At these challenging times, we’d like to thank all the key workers in our warehouses and on our roads moving essential goods, but also the industry associations reminding the government how important operators and warehouse staff are.


Editor's Blog: Supermarkets show leadership

In her March 2020 blog, editor Kirsty Adams discusses some of the action being taken to help operators manage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the first things I learned when I joined the logistics industry was that it was born to store and distribute food and materials in wartime Britain. And here we are again. It may not be an actual war but demand and methods are being likened to those used during WW2. I wonder if people tried to stockpile food in the same fashion they are today?

Our bricks and mortar grocers are full of people again, clearing shelves, and mighty Ocado has shut its website because it couldn’t fulfil unprecedented demand. Our warehouses are being tested.

Certain actions by government have been helpful to the cold chain. London Councils suspension of the London Lorry Control Scheme with immediate effect, being one. 

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has also recognised the vital role delivery drivers are playing in keeping the nation fed and provisioned.

But during a recent interview with Fowler Welch, CEO Nick Hay highlighted other things which could support operators during this period, including flexibility around driver CPC and environmental restrictions.

Luckily we’re an industry which has incredible associations which engage and lobby government on our behalf, including the Cold Chain Federation, the UKWA and FTA.

Supermarkets are showing leadership and delivering promises. I hope they also lend support to the warehouses which supply them, the invisible heroes out the back.

What’s we’re starting to see filter through are acts of generosity from suppliers. Lincolnshire-based OrderWise is giving customers £1.8 million in free software licences to support them as their teams move to work remotely. It says the aim is to help businesses across logistics, ecommerce and wholesale. If your business can afford this type of generosity, now is the time to share.
Our new digital platform www.shdlogistics.com launched in the midst of this storm which means more logisticians will find the content they need at this tough time. 

The website will focus on four key areas; Sustainability, Retail & Ecommerce, New Technology and Your People. 

We also look forward to continuing to update our readers and listeners on the latest news on COVID-19.


Editor's blog: Retail parks destined to be logistics hubs

In her February 2020 blog, editor Kirsty Adams discusses the Future High Streets Fund.

My perfect local high street would have less Pret-a-Mangers, more green grocers, charity shops, a boots, a tiny theatre and an abundance of independent bruncheries. And a pub. And a post office. Or a pub crossed with a post office?

No-one’s asking me for my fantasy high street, but money talks, and how I spend mine will drive change on my beloved Camberwell High Street. Maybe.The pre-loved clothing trend which continues to boom means our charity shops are one thing that is thriving. Charity shops can apply to receive 80% discount on business rates – at the moment – so it’s also easier for them to exist.

In December the government announced the first 14 high streets to receive up to £25 million each from the Future High Streets Fund. Over 2020, hundreds of millions of the £1 billion fund will be invested across the country in projects to revive our high streets.

The high streets will benefit from bespoke support and guidance from the High Streets Task Force, which brings together a range of expert groups on reinventing and restructuring places, including the Town Planning Institute and The Design Council.

Places to receive the funding include South Lakeland – Kendal and Preston – Friargate. In late January it was reported that shopping centre owner Intu was seeking emergency cash from its shareholders following a tough festive season.

The company warned that its £5bn debt pile was too high, and it was selling shopping centres to raise cash. There doesn’t seem to be a Future Shopping Centre or Retail Park fund – the focus is the high street and its place in our communities – which I must confess – makes me feel all warm inside.

So what of our out-of-town shopping centres and retail parks? Often blamed for the empty units on our high streets. The expansion of the logistics property business into well-located city-fringe retail sites has been predicted for some months, according to our property editor David Thame.

We recently reported that Prologis paid £51.4 million for a 128,000 sq ft site at Ravenside Retail Park in Edmonton, North London. The shop units will eventually be converted into last mile delivery hubs. Today tenants include Argos, Wickes and Mothercare.

It makes sense for warehouses to move in on failing retail sites, to service residents and their revived local high streets. I like the sound of a last triangle – connecting warehouse, high street and home.

The high street isn’t dead, it’s being transformed, and I find it exciting. I might open a shop. Or a pub-post office. Pub office?


Editors Blog: Getting Brexit done

In her January 2020 blog, editor Kirsty Adams discusses Brexit preparation and SHD's digital expansion.

2020 is set to be an interesting year. An ambitious Tory government plans to get Brexit done, reform our NHS and unite our kingdom. Whilst ambitious is what we need, and whilst a majority Conservative government has been welcomed by industry bodies, the profession has been quick to comment on what’s required for these next crucial steps.

Pro-enterprise policies on immigration, infrastructure, innovation and skills, will help relaunch the UK on the world stage, says Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general. Minimising frictions, red tape and costs should be at the heart of the negotiations if UK PLC is to continue trading effectively, says Pauline Bastidon, FTA’s head of Global and European Policy.

When will the UK actually leave the customs union and how can we ensure we are 100% prepared for it? Asks Andrew Baxter, managing director at Europa Worldwide Group. UKWA’s Peter Ward warns that the pre-election pledge that the Brexit Transition Period will not be extended beyond December 2020 means the risk of leaving the EU on WTO terms is still with us, and not to underestimate the task ahead.

As the world as we know it transforms because of Brexit, technology and sustainability, SHD Logistics is transforming too. We plan to reform our digital platform in order to reach our digital centric readers – old and new. We will continue to build our community with digital thought leadership editorial, downloadable white papers and bespoke research to help you navigate your way through these changing times. We plan to focus on technology, sustainability, people and e-commerce.

The UK’s e-commerce market is due to grow nearly 10% to reach £207.1 billion in the next three years. As Professor Toby Peters at University of Birmingham has shown - flagged to us by Shane Brennan of the Cold Chain Federation - the amount of ‘cooling’ required to service an exponentially growing and more affluent global population will mean we will need three times as much cold chain in 2050 than we have today.

These are challenges and opportunities which the SHD Logistics team looks forward to facing with you in 2020 and beyond. What topics would you like us to focus on? Email: Kirsty.adams@informa.com.

 

 


 

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