It's been a dramatic year in home delivery. ArrowXL was forced to watch one of its key hubs burn to the ground, and DX Group lost its senior leadership team after years of unrest and financial turbulence. To recap what's happened in the sector in 2017 here's a look back at it, neatly boxed up for you.
It’s been a year of change on home delivery boards across the UK. The most notable changes are, of course, over at DX Group.
After rows with its biggest shareholder Gatemore Capital Management, the troubled carrier will ring in 2018 with a brand new leadership team and a refurbished board.
CEO Petar Cvekovich and FD Daljit Basi stepped down in July after an “exceptionally difficult year” in which the DX group made a loss of £80m.
Basi was immediately replaced by turnaround specialist James Hayward, and former CEO of competitor Tuffnells Lloyd Dunn stepped in as CEO in October.
Former DX chairman Bob Holt left the board and the business with the release of the group’s results in October, and was replaced by Ron Series. Dunn’s Nightfreight co-founder Russell Black and former Great Bear Distribution chairman Paul Goodson also joined the board as non-executive directors.
At Tuffnells, the boss of the big green parcels machines Chris Ward left the business in August, as part of ongoing integration with parent company Connect Group.
Elsewhere in the world of larger home deliveries, former DPD technical director Charlie Shiels popped up at Arrow XL is its new chief operations officer in April.
But when Arrow CEO Ian Howell left the business suddenly in October, Shiels stepped into his shoes on and interim basis. Earlier this month, Shiels confirmed he had accepted the CEO on a permanent basis.
Hermes also welcomed new names during 2017, including a transition from Carole Woodhead to Carole Walker when the then-CEO got married.
In March Hermes’ operations director Martijn de Lange became MD of the parcel carrier, in a role to complement Walker’s CEO-ship. The idea, he told MT, was that he would take over more of the day-to-day running of the business while Walker handled board matters.
The move made more sense to MT when in October, it was announced that Walker had been promoted to CEO of Hermes Europe and that de Lange would be filling her role in the UK.
UK Mail also found a new leader in 2017, almost two years after former CEO Guy Buswell stepped down in November 2015.
Peter Fuller, who spent 19 years at Parcelforce before joining UK Mail as operations officer in 2016, said the business was in a strong position after it was bought by Deutsche Post DHL in September 2016.
E-commerce is still going great guns in the UK and the majority of the parcels market is thriving on the swelling volumes.
The two businesses falling down despite the booming b2c delivery market in 2017 are Royal Mail and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Yodel.
The black sheep of the Barclay Brothers’ businesses made its eighth consecutive loss in the year ended 30 June 2017, with the exact figures expected in early 2018.
But Yodel CEO Mike Cooper said that he’s confident the parcel carrier will turn it around in the next 18 months. The business has a four-strand survival strategy, which he told MT all about - keep your eyes peeled for the full interview in the new year.
Royal Mail was criticised earlier this year for under-performing in a booming parcels market. The operator’s parcel division saw a 3% increase in parcels for the year ended 26 March 2017, and head of consumer research at Fastlane International David Jinks said this was a poor performance against market growth.
Royal Mail’s overall turnover fell by 2%, and Jinks said: “This is against an e-commerce home delivery market growing by 19.5%. Royal Mail's core UKPIL revenues should not be falling in this climate.”
Meanwhile DPDgroup smashed through the £1bn turnover barrier this September for the first time, with overall pre-tax profit at £144m. CEO Dwain McDonald said the group had hit the billion pound milestone sooner than he thought.
He said: “To be honest, we’ve reached it sooner than we originally thought. It is a fantastic milestone for the business and something we’re very proud of."
UK Mail made happier headlines this year than in 2016, as its new parent company Deutsche Post DHL thanked the carrier for improved performance in its European parcels business.
The parcels division saw turnover grow 70% to €458m (£386.3), which it said was primarily driven by its acquisition of the struggling UK Mail in 2016.
In larger home delivery, Tuffnells continued to carry parent group Connect Group. Its turnover grew by 5.2% against group revenue growth of 0.2%.
Contracts and Services
2017 saw a big rebrand for the familiar brand Interlink Express. DPDGroup’s B2B division had a full branding makeover in February and emerged as DPD Local, complete with blue branding to match its sister division’s distinctive red vans. The new livery was shortlisted for the MT Livery of the Year award (pictured).
CEO Dwain McDonald said that though the rebrand aligned DPD Local with the recognisable B2C division of the business, “it is important that DPD Local remains a separate entity with a clear and distinct proposition. The connection between the local depot, their customer services staff and local businesses is an incredibly strong one.”
DPD also used 2017 to roll its service Precise out to more of its biggest customers, 10 of which are now able to offer consumers the option of selecting their own day and hour of delivery.
Long-time DPD customer ASOS launched a same-day delivery service with urban courier service CityCprint this year.
CitySprint’s service On-the-dot started offering Asos Instant to 122 London postcodes in October, which was expanded to Manchester and Leeds six weeks later. CitySprint CEO Patrick Gallagher said On-the-dot was poised to give the service a nationwide reach if demand was sufficient.
Disaster struck for Fed-Ex-owned TNT in June when it fell victim to an international cyber attack dubbed NotPetya.
The attack, thought to have originated from a software update in its Ukraine office, had huge knock-on effects for the carrier and Fed-Ex estimated the attack cost TNT around $300m in total (£221m).
Much of the network’s data was wiped and the computer systems were down for a number of weeks, which left TNT manually processing parcels more than a month after the attack happened.
The DX network was almost expanded during the year when the group almost bought Menzies Distribution. However talks with the Scottish operator collapsed after a trading statement was released and Menzies said it was clear DX would not be able to meet the terms of the deal on the table.
ArrowXL also suffered a serious setback when its Worcester hub – one of its four key sites - burned down in April. No one was hurt in the fire, which was declared a major incident by the police, and Arrow had a temporary depot up and running in Chepstow just days after the incident.
Eight months on and ArrowXL CEO Charlie Shiels told MT that the rebuild had started on the Worcester site. The brand new hub, which should be operational in summer 2019, will be “bigger and better than ever”.
He said: “By summer 2019 we will have a new five-bay, two-man warehouse on the old site but bigger, fatter, taller, wider.”
Hermes upped its network capacity by almost 50% in August when its new super hub in Rugby went live. The parcel carrier broke ground on the new £31m facility in January 2016.
Then-CEO Carole Walker said of the new hub: “The facility significantly strengthens our network and infrastructure, vastly enhances our throughput capability, and guarantees that we are in the best possible position to support the UK’s retail industry for many years to come.”
DPD secured a site for its fifth hub during 2017, which promises to send its network capacity through the roof. MT doesn’t know much about hub 5 at present, other than it is in the Hinckley area with hubs 3 and 4. Watch this space in 2018 for more.