Amazon restrictions might be an opportunity for independents

The increase in online sales instigated by the global coronavirus pandemic has prompted Amazon to announce it would no longer ship what it considers to be ‘non-essential items’ in Italy and France and Amazon UK has been making similar noises as delivery drivers plead with the public to stop ordering non-essential items and fear warehouses might become breeding ground for Covid-19.

While these measures are understandable, the new policy will hugely impact ‘Amazon-only’ retailers who don’t currently sell and distribute their own products and should encourage those retailers to launch their own eCommerce platform. This is according to digital commerce solutions specialist, Kooomo,

The retail giant has put limitations on orders and is only shipping what is believed to be ‘essential’ products. Although this may have a negative impact on smaller independent retailers, it may encourage an uptake in new eCommerce sites, omnichannel solutions and independent supply chain services.

Ciaran Bollard, CEO at Kooomo says: “As we have seen in Italy and now the UK, the impact of the virus lockdown has caused a significant increase in online sales. Retailers which have invested in omnichannel retail solutions and have stock in-store which is also available online are easing the impact of restricted footfall on the high-street. Some retailers are now considering resupplying the main warehouse with shop stock to help fulfil demand.”

“Creating a seamless omnichannel eCommerce experience is also vital for retailers to process increases in demand and will help to future-proof their business. There are many alternative stock distribution options to consider, with some replenishing warehouse stock using items couriered directly from their stores. When the time is right it can also be a good idea to introduce ‘click and collect’ options.”

Garden centres around the UK are already rising to the immense challenge posed by the store-opening ban during their peak trading season by organising impromptu home delivery services via their community Facebook groups, which have promoted locals to rally round their favourite stores.

“Pop-up supply chains are becoming a common method to respond to seasonal or peak demand which may be another viable option for retailers in the future. Retailers can take advantage of freelance courier services such as TaskRabbit, providing an alternative, ad-hoc delivery service. The use of flexible warehouse and distribution centres and acquiring temporary space through short-term leases in non-traditional spaces is another alternative,” he explained.

Crowdsourced and “on-demand” warehousing gives companies access to storage space only when needed and retailers pay only for what they use, instead of having to rely on longer contracts with 3PLs. This may be a good fit for smaller businesses as it will allow them to expand at their own pace and in a cost-efficient ‘pay as you use’ service model.

Ciaran concluded: “Omnichannel innovations have been invaluable for many retailers and we can assume that as online purchasing increases, they will continue to explore their potential long after this is over. Over in China, it is good to see Alibaba’s shipping activity has approached pre-outbreak levels as people resumed work and roadblocks came down this week.

“We can already see countries overcoming the worst of COVID-19, with China coming out of lockdown and gradually returning to normal. Hopefully this is a light at the end of the tunnel for retailers around the world.”