Van­bri­gade does shop­ping for you

Home de­liv­ery is com­ing back with a rush, writes James Stan­ford

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NEW trans­port op­por­tu­ni­ties are open­ing up as more Aus­tralian cus­tomers choose home de­liv­ery.

Chang­ing buyer habits, led by the pop­u­lar­ity of the in­ter­net and re­duced free time for shop­ping, are putting the squeeze on tra­di­tional bricks-and-mor­tar shops and boost­ing the mar­ket for to-the­door de­liv­er­ies.

Sev­eral start-up com­pa­nies are mak­ing the most of the trend, while some courier op­er­a­tions are chang­ing their fo­cus and pay­ing more at­ten­tion to home de­liv­er­ies.

Fig­ures from over­seas sug­gest a sub­stan­tial num­ber of us are buy­ing items by in­ter­net, phone or mailorder cat­a­logues.

A Neil­son study found Asia is home to the most pro­lific on­line shop­pers, with 90 per cent of con­sumers in the re­gion in­tend­ing to make on­line pur­chases within the next six months.

It found 4 per cent of cus­tomers in South Korea and China say they use the in­ter­net for most of their gro­cery needs, 71 per cent reg­u­larly use the in­ter­net to buy gro­ceries and 30 per cent use TV shop­ping chan­nels (that’s a lot of steak knives).

Other stud­ies sug­gest that in the US, up to 20 per cent of cloth­ing, elec­tron­ics and me­dia are bought via non-store av­enues. Non-store shop­ping is strong in elec­tron­ics such as iPods and iPads.

TNT Ex­press spe­cialises in busi­ness-to-busi­ness freight but does home de­liv­ery work and has the con­tract to de­liver Ap­ple prod­ucts, of­ten bought over the in­ter­net.

‘‘ The peo­ple who buy Ap­ple prod­ucts are usu­ally early adopters, so us­ing in the in­ter­net makes sense for them,’’ says TNT mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Adrian Cas­to­rina. ‘‘It is im­por­tant for us to get it to them quickly.‘‘There is no doubt that Gen Y use the in­ter­net to shop and we see a large in­crease in home de­liv­er­ies of prod­ucts pur­chased through web­sites.’’

A much wider group of cus­tomers is also get­ting on the home de­liv­ery wagon.

Many of us can prob­a­bly re­mem­ber hav­ing milk home de­liv­ered in glass bot­tles, a ser­vice that stopped in our neigh­bour­hood in the late 1980s. Well, the milk­men have re­turned and this time they have gro­ceries as well.

Aussie Farm­ers Di­rect started five years ago with a plan to home de­liver milk in a Mel­bourne sub­urb and it now has 80,000 cus­tomers in six states.

The idea is the milk­men (and women) buy a fran­chise from the com­pany for about $110,000. That buys ac­cess to an area. They then buy a re­frig­er­ated de­liv­ery van. Most pick a Hyundai iLoad, Mit­subishi Ex­press or Toy­ota Hi­Ace.

Aussie Farm­ers Di­rect takes care

‘‘ We see a large in­crease in home de­liv­er­ies of prod­ucts pur­chased through web­site

of all the mar­ket­ing and all the back­room func­tions that can drive small busi­ness op­er­a­tors mad, in­clud­ing book-keep­ing.

Aussie Farm­ers Di­rect has 80 fran­chisees and is look­ing for more.

The cus­tomer ap­peal is two-fold, says Aussie Farm­ers Di­rect spokes­woman Natashia Bartlett.

‘‘It is the con­ve­nience value of hav­ing your shop­ping brought straight to your door,’’ she says.

‘‘ The fact the cus­tomers are also sup­port­ing lo­cal farm­ers, with 100 per cent of our prod­ucts sourced from Aus­tralian owned, is also ap­pre­ci­ated.’’

Most op­er­a­tors are new to the freight in­dus0try — a fran­chise is a chance to try some­thing dif­fer­ent.

Su­per­mar­kets, which Aussie Farm­ers Di­rect sug­gests forced out the orig­i­nal milk­man by heav­ily dis­count­ing milk, are keen not to miss out on the home de­liv­ery trade.

Big play­ers Coles and Wool­worths have of­fered home de­liv­ery ser­vices, but the take-up has not been great.

Now they are both mar­ket­ing home-de­liv­ery op­tions.

‘‘We have not seen much de­mand pre­vi­ously, but we are cer­tainly push­ing hard at the moment and ex­pect to see an in­crease in home de­liv­ery ser­vices,’’ says a Wool­worths spokesman.

Freight from the ware­house to bricks-and-mor­tar stores is fac­ing pres­sure from the new trend.

More cus­tomers buy­ing items from over­seas is likely to ben­e­fit Aus­tralia Post in the case of smaller, cheaper items.

Courier com­pa­nies are likely to ben­e­fit from in­creased de­liv­er­ies of larger items.

And the rise in the value of the Aus­tralian dol­lar is likely to see trans-bound­ary pur­chas­ing in­crease

At your ser­vice: Aussie Farm­ers Di­rect milk­man Ja­son Hill delivers pro­duce in Rich­mond.

Open for busi­ness: a long-wheel­base Hi­Ace is ideal for home de­liv­er­ies.

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