Midland Pallet Trucks, a UK leader in the provision of quality handling equipment from Europe’s top manufacturers, believes that the rise of the omnichannel customer is set to have a significant impact on the future of warehousing. With a notable increase in shoppers utilising both digital and physical stores when researching, comparing, and purchasing products, the Midland Pallet Trucks team predicts that store-based distribution and fulfilment centres will become equally as important as warehouses.
Indeed, one of the biggest and perhaps most surprising of retail trends that has been seen over the past few years is the shift from either ecommerce or brick-and-mortar stores to a combination of the two. With a belief that online purchasing has killed the traditional shopping experience and the act of discovery, even the world’s most successful ecommerce retailers have recently chosen to expand into the physical world. Amazon, for example, now boasts almost 600 physical locations in the United States when its partnership with WholeFoods is taken into account; more than Costco.
It is highly anticipated that the growing trend for online retailers to expand into the physical space will naturally result in an increase in brick-and-mortar stores used in a warehouse capacity, with more ‘ship from store’ options available to customers. The existing warehouse space challenge, which has only been intensified by Brexit preparations and stockpiling, supports this idea. But what does this mean for stores?
“We have long been advocates for the continuation of brick-and-mortar stores alongside an online presence for UK retailers, and believe that as customer expectations evolve, physical stores are becoming increasingly important for meeting buyer needs” says Midland Pallet Trucks Managing Director Phil Chesworth. “But we are also keen to ensure that businesses are fully prepared for the new challenges that can arise from potential storage opportunities that a physical presence can bring”.
“The concepts of ‘ship from store’ and ‘direct to consumer’ undoubtedly disrupt workflow and introduce complex new handling tasks for store workers who may not be experienced in these duties” continues Chesworth. “In order to ensure ongoing health and safety in the warehouses of tomorrow, it is essential that brick-and-mortar distribution centres follow the same processes as warehousing operatives, using suitable equipment such as hand pallet trucks, drum loaders, and moving skates”.
The trend for an increased physical presence and direct to consumer options has already taken off in the United States. Kohls, for example, recently hit the headlines for investing $2 billion in technology and $1 in in-store improvements to transform its brick-and-mortar stores into combined shopping and distribution centres. Similarly, it is estimated that more than half of all Target orders are now fulfilled by local stores.