Congestion in our city centers and residential neighborhoods is only getting worse. More deliveries from web stores, especially in the hours when we consumers are at home, means more trucks and delivery vans driving around. The number of deliveries sent between consumers via peer-to-peer sales platforms is growing like crazy. We are picking things up at click-and-collect points more and more often. How are we supposed to accommodate all that in the larger cities?
At the same time, the advent of so-called nano stores, specialised neighborhood convenience shops, is leading to a more fine-meshed and more frequent distribution. I’ve got five Albert Heijn “to go” shops and two regular AH supermarkets within 500 yards of my house, and AH’s home-delivery service Appie.nl drives past our door numerous times a day. It all has to be fresh, fast and complete. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll see the first neighborhood shops for construction materials that will also serve as collection points.
Supplying all those consumers and small shops means higher and higher costs for those last miles. In the past, major retail chains such as Jumbo, Gamma, Blokker, HEMA, Intertoys and Zeeman in the Netherlands could still drive their loaded trucks to their stores in the cities. But as the loads in those trucks get smaller and smaller and the deliveries become more and more frequent, that’s no longer possible.
Two out of three transactions on the Internet take place between consumers themselves via peer-to-peer sales platforms. Local deliveries form an ever-increasing part of the distribution of goods in cities and residential neighborhoods. And it’s only going to get busier.
Partly for that reason, cities in Europe are now regulating the transport of goods more and more tightly. It needs to be cleaner, quieter, safer and essentially invisible. Trucks and delivery vans are being banned. The future lies with bicycle couriers, as they can take care of 50% of the parcels to be delivered in cities. Transporting goods on the canals in Dutch cities offers additional opportunities. And the odd trucks that will still be allowed into the city will have to be emission-free at the very least. The electric Cargohopper is already a success in three Dutch cities. Shutl and UberRush will be bringing the packages and the couriers into contact with each other via smart apps.
We are going to be disconnecting the flow of goods between the massive European distribution centers of manufacturers and retailers on the edges of cities or, better yet, within those cities themselves, close to consumers and stores. Over the past 30 years cities have been busy chasing logistics out of town.
In large European cities, people are pondering about how to they can fit logistics back into the city again. This will demand smart concepts from project developers and municipal governments for easily accessible city-center ‘logistics hotels’. The French company Chapelle International has plans for such a logistics hotel in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Half of that 50,000m2 project is destined for storage, transshipment, collection points and the recharging of electric vehicles.
Logistics hotels in cities are an interesting idea. Ducth PostNL is rapidly closing down its post offices, large and small, in The Netherlands. But is that really such a good idea? For the time being, let’s hold on to our local Food Centers for food service, the inland ports for construction materials and the railway stations for retail and web-store logistics. In five years, we will acknowledge that we should never have closed all those post offices.
Walther Ploos van Amstel.