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Lidl, the fast-growing German discount retailer, has bought a site near Leeds to build its 17th regional distribution centre (RDC) in the UK. The company currently has 12 RDCs in operation and the Leeds site is the 5th in their pipeline of new warehouses: Doncaster, Bolton, Peterborough and Luton.

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We look at Spark Delivery, a new last-mile delivery program from Walmart, that is being piloted in Nashville and New Orleans.

Grocery delivery programme launched this year

Following a launch earlier this year, Walmart is in the process of rolling-out grocery home delivery to 100 metro areas in the US, reaching more than 40% of US households. Currently the retailer is utilising a range of crowd-sourced delivery partners, including Uber and Deliv, in different regions. However, this new pilot suggests that it is aiming to build its own national service, which will bring potential cost benefits and the opportunity to learn more about last-mile delivery.

Partnering with Bringg and Delivery Drivers

Walmart has developed an in-house platform that enables drivers to select windows of work and provides navigation assistance. Elements of the service are powered by Bringg, a delivery logistics technology platform. Spark Delivery is also partnering with Delivery Drivers, Inc, a company which specialises in last-mile contractor management, to complete deliveries. Commenting on the new program, Greg Foran, president and CEO, Walmart US, stated,

"We’re saving customers time by leveraging new technology and connecting all the parts of our business into a single seamless shopping experience: great stores, easy pickup, fast delivery, and apps and websites that are simple to use."

Last mile in focus

This is the latest in a range of fulfillment innovations from Walmart. Last year, it started testing associate-powered delivery, with store colleagues undertaking deliveries in what was also essentially a crowd-sourced model. This was recently relaunched in Atlanta. The retailer is also continuing to roll-out grocery ecommerce pickup, with 2,100 stores expected to offer the service by the end of the year.

Key element of Walmart’s ecosystem development

Crowd-sourced delivery is a popular model in the US. For groceries, this has been driven by Instacart, which has partnered with most major grocery operators including Walmart (through its Sam’s Club operation), Kroger and Albertsons. Last year, Target acquired Shipt, a membership-based crowd-sourced delivery company. This enabled the retailer to significantly accelerate its progress on same-day delivery. Earlier this year, Amazon launched Amazon Flex, a delivery service which uses independent drivers.

With Both Instacart and Shipt operating with multiple retail partners, once scaled, Spark Delivery could be opened to other partners and form an important part of the broader ecosystem which Walmart is currently developing.

 

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The modernisation of Target’s supply chain operations was demonstrated recently when they ran an event to compete with Amazon’s Prime Day sale.

Keeping operations running smoothly

At the retailer’s recent Q2 investor call, the senior team described how the one-day event created their biggest digital sales day outside of a holiday season, driving sales of nearly three times forecast. John Mulligan, Target’s Chief Operating Officer said “While this was great news of course, our store and supply chain teams had to react and recover quickly to fulfil all the unplanned demand and keep operations running smoothly.”

You can read more about the changes Target are making to their store network to create a truly omnichannel supply chain in our case study. It describes how they have made warehouse-to-store deliveries more flexible, enabling faster store replenishment as well as customer order delivery.

In the call, Mulligan also referred to other efficiencies they are working on in backrooms to improve service and reduce workload for store staff, enabling them to focus on the customer experience.

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Having launched its first unstaffed convenience store at Lotte World Tower in Seoul last year, 7-Eleven is now testing its latest 'express' format. South Korea continues to see the rise of self-service and cashier-less stores with various retailers exploring this space. 

7-Eleven's new concept store consists of five vending machines in the shape of an express train. It is currently testing four stores, two of which are being trialled at the headquarters of 7-Eleven in Seoul, one at Lotte E&M in Incheon, and the other at the headquarters of Lotte Rent-a-Car in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province.

More about 7-Eleven express

The 10-metre long express stores carry 200 products across five key categories; drinks, snacks, prepared meals, processed food and non-food products. They are also cashless, and shoppers can pay via a prepaid transit card or credit card after inputting the product number into the machine.

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