End of road for expensive final mile

The last mile of delivery is a perennial challenge for the whole supply chain. It is at this stage where economies of scale and other efficiencies are lost, meaning that the search is always on for the most cost-effective means of getting goods to points of sale in communities across the country. Businesses are also increasingly looking to minimise their impact on traffic congestion and logistics’ overall carbon footprint.

While the market is well served by haulage and courier providers, few companies have the distribution capacity and geographical spread to successfully manage significant localised deliveries. One business area where a successful last-mile model is well established is in newspaper and magazine distribution, with tens of thousands of deliveries virtually every day of the year to locations in both urban and rural areas.

Menzies Distribution, with a fleet of 1,600 vehicles and 39 bases, already places five million newspapers and more than two million magazines on the stands at independents and multiples throughout the UK and Ireland. Now, the company, which covers 60 per cent of the country, is putting its network to other uses.

Last year, managing director David McIntosh revealed that its new logistics division is in talks with a number of high street retailers about distributing items other than printed material.

“We’ve been in this business for around 180 years and our traditional business remains very important to us,” he says. “But it’s no secret that newspaper sales in particular are in decline, so we have created Menzies Logistics Solutions to take advantage of our unrivalled network during daytime hours, after core newspaper and magazine deliveries have been made.

We’re already in high streets across the country every day

“We’re already in high streets across the country every day, so what we offer is a cost-effective alternative to in-house logistics, especially where businesses are able to take a more collaborative approach to distribution by working with us to combine deliveries.”

The new division is already delivering 175,000 travel brochures to more than 1,000 agents in the North West and South East of England, and distributing hundreds of thousands of free newspapers and magazines to hand-to-hand merchandisers at commuter sites across London. In late-2013, it also started delivering a wide range of goods, including DVDs and e-readers, to 110 WHSmith stores in the North of England as part of a three-year deal worth £1.5 million.

General manager of Menzies Logistics Solutions Stuart McLean adds: “Our network of bases, mixed fleet and experienced staff are the foundation of what we offer, and with the technology we have invested in, it means that we can really take full advantage of that network.

“We use telematics and a sophisticated transport management system to monitor and maximise vehicle use. The benefits for our customers are reduced road miles, deliveries at any time during the day or night, and options for tracking and reporting.”

In a further sign of its development plans, Menzies Distribution also bought Orbital Marketing Services group in 2012, helping to establish the company as a comprehensive logistics firm, not just a leading UK provider of final-mile deliveries.