Rise of online sales prompts Jack Richards Palletways to look to a new kind of driver
- Credit: Ian Burt
A tenfold increase in home deliveries has prompted a Norfolk haulier to instil a stronger customer service ethos in its drivers.
Fakenham-headquartered haulier Jack Richards & Son has seen consistent growth across the business including its pallet delivery division, Palletways.
Home deliveries now make up 25% of Palletways' business, up from 2% five years ago.
That has led to a change in how the service is run, but a greater emphasis on customer service training for drivers who are now delivering door-to-door to customers.
Dominic Purslow, Palletways depot principal, said the firm had seen 'fantastic growth' in e-commerce, but had needed to adapt with new vehicles – and new drivers.
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'It creates a challenge because the job of driver is no longer business to business,' he said.
'The challenge is to accommodate that while keeping our reputation so we are training our drivers in customer care.
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'It involves a change in culture because the traditional person who might become a driver is not necessarily someone who is used to that.'
Mr Purslow said the business was actively encouraging people who were struggling to get into the jobs market to take their HGV licence and then giving them the additional training they needed.
With uncertainty over the future availability of European drivers post-Brexit, and a decline in numbers with the fall of the pound after the EU referendum, Jack Richards is considering home-grown talent.
Another change to the industry is workers wanting more flexibility in their hours and businesses desiring the same for their deliveries.
Oli Mitchell, general manager of Jack Richards, said: 'Businesses are ordering smaller quantities but more frequently, which means that load times are shorter. Firms have smaller warehousing space and are managing their sites at capacity so we have to be more dynamic with how we think about deliveries and how we can mitigate costs.'
With between 450 and 500 drivers heading out from 13 Jack Richards sites a day, technology has become vital to cut costs and each driver is monitored and able to check their own driving performance through a phone app.
Palletways, which contributes nearly £5m to Jack Richards' £44m turnover, has diversified to offer warehousing and assembly services for e-commerce companies meaning they can be involved in more of the supply chain.
Mr Purslow said: 'We had to move with the market and offering warehousing, pick and pack and assembly has helped us to be a bigger part of the chain.
'You have entrepreneurs who have the product but they need a way to get it out there. Being able to offer them somewhere to store it helps to get things moving.'
Mr Purslow said the division was continuing to grow around 8% every year – driven by the e-commerce sector. Businesses such as the Big Green Egg barbecue distributor Alfresco Concepts and garden machinery supplier Anglia Mowers both store stock with Jack Richards and use its packing and distribution services.
Jack Richards was founded in 1956 and moved to its Fakenham home in the 1970s.