The UK courier specialist ParcelHero has welcomed the UK Government’s new Covid-19 Recovery Strategy, which reveals its plans for rebuilding the economy while continuing to save lives. However, while there is much to commend in the new strategy, ParcelHero fears that the new 50-page plan will do more harm than good for an area of retail that has been positively thriving throughout the crisis.
The report specifically acknowledges: ‘Many businesses across the UK have already been highly innovative in developing new, durable ways of doing business, such as moving online or adapting to a delivery model.’ However, ParcelHero is concerned that the first phase of the Government’s Our Plan to Rebuild guidelines will actually hinder vital home deliveries.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘For some weeks, businesses have been seeking more clarity about how they might safely reopen. As the Government’s new recovery strategy plan itself acknowledges: ‘The longer the virus affects the economy, the greater the risks of long-term scarring and permanently lower economic activity, with business failures …and lower earnings.’ However, as the Government puts more meat on the bone of its recovery plan, it’s concerning that some of the very changes it will seek to introduce will actually hinder home deliveries, despite the fact they are specifically praised as one of the ‘highly innovative .. new durable ways of doing business’ in the new guidelines.
‘The new plan specifically states, ‘All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open.’ Yet, at the same time, it urges: ‘When travelling, everybody (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible.’ The result of this new guidance is that jams have already formed on roads leading into London at rush hour this morning, whereas none were seen in cities such as Glasgow, which has not recommended such a return to work without a complete transport plan. Increased congestion will make life harder and slow home deliveries, just as we come to increasingly rely on them.
‘In addition, plans that are being formulated to replace public transport with walking or cycling to work will also impact vital home deliveries. For example, the Government says it will: ‘Increase funding and provide new statutory guidance to encourage local authorities to widen pavements, create pop-up cycle lanes, and close some roads in cities to traffic.’ Of course, it’s in everyone’s interest that people walk and cycle more to get to work ‑ it keeps us fit and reduces pollution – but how many of us actually live within a walk or a bike ride of their workplace? That is not how today’s commuter society has evolved. Narrowed roads, rapidly introduced pop-up bike lanes and hastily conceived road closures are exactly what hard-pressed delivery drivers should not have to battle, as they seek to get food orders and goods to people’s doors.
‘One further concern is for vital international deliveries. Many enterprising SME manufacturers and retailers are selling online overseas for the first time as their domestic orders falter, but the Government’s new plan for international travel will significantly reduce the potential and increase costs for increased global e-commerce. We entirely understand the proposed 14-day self-isolation requirement for all international arrivals to Britain, in terms of preventing a second wave of the virus. However, the measure will significantly reduce the number of international flights and that means overseas express shipments will remain more expensive and face further delays, as half of all international parcels are flown in the bellyhold of passenger aircraft.
‘The Government is walking a delicate tightrope between loosening lockdown and ensuring as many lives as possible are saved. It’s a wholly unenviable position to be in and there is much that is sensible in the new strategy document. But for vital home deliveries of food and goods – the one growth spot in the UK economy – this new plan represents a step backwards for online businesses and their delivery partners.’