A recent report of the crisis in Calais from the Freight Transport Association stated that the delay in UK freight transport is costing British businesses £750,000 a day. As an ecommerce cross-border delivery specialist, we have witnessed first-hand the damage the crisis is causing. On average, cargo at Calais is being delayed for 2-3 days. With the recent closure of two out of the six cargo platforms at the Euro tunnel, these delays look set not only to continue but even to increase by up to a week. Inevitably, this will result in further losses for business and stunt the growth of UK export, writes Stuart Rivett, MD of B2C Europe.
Businesses across all sectors are being affected by the delays. Ecommerce business has been particularly hard hit in term of the damage to reputation, growth and profit. Sellers from Amazon and eBay for example should be prepared for the possible onslaught of negative customer feedback and order cancellations due to the frustration of the delays. This could set in motion a domino effect, whereby the increase in negative feedback affects sellers’ profiles, which in turn results in a lower rating for the seller, or even the suspension of their account from Amazon or eBay. Such a chain reaction can not only damage the profits of the seller but also slow down the rate of export from the UK.
So what are the options for ecommerce businesses selling internationally? How can they reduce the time delays without incurring excessive costs? Well unfortunately there is no cheap or quick fix; but we can offer some advice which may help to limit the damage:
Communicate with your customers: Ensure that you communicate with your consumers throughout the entire purchase process, which starts as soon as they go to your website. eBay, for example, has taken the decision to announce extended delivery times due to the crisis in Calais, rather than to simply let customers draw their own conclusions when parcels arrive late.
Change ferry ports: If you are sticking to the roads the most sensible option is to change the haulage routes and completely avoid Calais and Dover. Some delivery companies are using other ferry ports in Hull, Portsmouth and Plymouth. The downside of this is that these ports can add up to 50 miles of driving; therefore businesses still have to incur extra costs for freight. Additionally, the added driving time means that the logistics and delivery times still need to be altered to accommodate this.
Use air freight: Some businesses are turning to chartering aircrafts as a quick fix solution. One air freight company chartered 78 aircrafts to move goods in the four weeks from June 23rd 2015, compared with 30 in the same period last year. This represents £900,000 of aircraft charters, up from £160,000 last year. While this will ensure that the delivery is not delayed, air freight is an expensive option. Custom and destination fees are often more costly by air. Additionally air freight charges are based on the volume of the cargo, rather than the actual weight as is the case with ferry freight. Therefore if your cargo is for a large and light load, be prepared to pay for it. Which takes us onto another point:
Should your customers be paying for the extra delivery cost? Of course, this a decision that is down to each seller, but be prepared with an alternative plan of action if you find that most of your customers are unhappy about paying the additional costs. It’s for you to decide whether it is viable for you to absorb the added price of delivery or not. Unfortunately for now, the problems in Calais look set to continue. Therefore all we can do as businesses is cope the best way possible and ensure we do all we can to meet the needs of our customers and remain financially stable. And for the migrants, we hope that the French and UK governments are able to settle on a solution that will support these people and get the traffic flowing again.