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ParcelForce, the Consignia-owned carrier, which has already cut its three- to five-day delivery service and raised prices, also recently scrapped evening deliveries.
James Roper, chief executive of trade body the Interactive Media in Retail Group, said the move has created difficulties for online retailers which relied solely on ParcelForce. "Companies have been left flapping around looking for capacity," he said. "Some are hoping for the best, but our advice would be to plan as early as you can to ensure customers are not disappointed."
Operating a multi-carrier strategy can help online retailers to avoid such delivery problems, Roper said.
Boots Wellbeing, the joint online venture between Boots and media firm and Granada, has already switched to a multi-carrier strategy. Mark Dearnley, chief operating officer, said this has cut costs by 25%. "It allows us to offer a range of delivery options, including next day, named day and a five-day service," he said. "We are able to move parcels between services and carriers to ensure our customers get what they asked for."
The service is based on Dace software from supplier MetaPack, which automates carrier selection, Dearnley said. "The software is integrated with our order management system," he said. "It chooses the carrier by looking at the postcode of the customer and the type and weight of the product."
MetaPack last week unveiled an application service provider (ASP) version of Dace, to help online retailers to establish a multi-carrier strategy quickly.
"We have made Dace available as an ASP version in response to a number of UK parcel carriers reducing their capacity," said Nigel Rzemieniecki, marketing director at MetaPack.