One industry observer's slightly jaundiced view of the home delivery vans cluttering up his street.

Ocado’s admission that it has been held back by a driver shortage while motorists’ frustration gets worse because of the increasing number of side-street-blocking home delivery vans is a paradox for the modern age; how can we eat our cake if the distribution system chokes suppliers, streets and the public alike?

The answer would appear to lie in consolidation, something Britain’s HGV transport industry is rather good at – think Spalding, for example, and the fleets based in the area serving Britain’s fresh produce suppliers. At the consumer end of the pipeline, does it matter if these goods have been delivered to the store by a shared transport system? Of course not – eggs is eggs.

But things are different in the home delivery supply chain, where one supermarket-branded home delivery van may well be closely followed by another delivering the same or similar products to the house next door.

Burgeoning industry

A DfT study revealed that 70 million fewer bus journeys would have been undertaken in 2016/17 compared with the previous year. A proportion of these saved journeys are doubtless due to the burgeoning home delivery industry. At the same time, car ownership has increased. Presumably, a proportion of these cars are owned by people who avail themselves of home delivery services and are consequently freed to make alternative journeys instead – which raises the question of whether home deliveries generate environmental benefits or just add to the problem.

But the winds of change are blowing, driven by internet giants set on taking over every aspect of our daily lives, including the distribution of provisions currently supplied by supermarkets. These online behemoths will not care one jot who delivers their products, they will simply opt for the most cost-effective option, ie: consolidation, which they will hawkishly monitor in every conceivable manner to eke out further savings.

And there’s sense in their thinking: after all, as Andrew Carnegie said: “The way to become rich is to put all your eggs in one basket, then watch that basket.”

To conclude, I offer another egg quote, one for traditional retailers to perhaps mull over. It comes from CS Lewis: “We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched, or go bad.”