Home delivery has a long history, from Victorian era high street shops, through catalogue companies like Littlewoods and Kays, to Amazon and thousands of other Internet retailers. All the major supermarkets now offer home delivery of groceries, and many take-aways, cafés and restaurants deliver prepared food via Deliveroo, Just Eat or Uber Eats.
Home delivery is a lifeline for people who would risk their lives going out to shop during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has long been for people housebound by disability or caring responsibilities.
Businesses that did not already offer online ordering have faced a stark choice: shut up shop for the duration of the lockdown and hope the government’s financial support will keep them from insolvency; or figure out pretty quickly how to sell online.
Those taking the second path are learning how to communicate with existing and potential customers. Having a high street presence might have been all the marketing they’ve ever done. Then there’s the technical work required to take orders and payments online or, failing that, over the phone. Finally, there’s the logistics of delivery and collections to organise.
It is heartening to see local farmers, grocers, cheese shops, bakers, brewers, plant nurseries and more not only surviving but thriving. Zedify was well-prepared to respond to the demand for an affordable collection and delivery service in Cambridge. Their cargo bikes are quiet, non-polluting, and, being narrow, do not have to be parked up on a pavement during pick-ups and drop-offs.
This is brilliantly convenient and sustainable – at least while we’re all shut in our homes. But how can it continue when people return to work?
How about we don’t all return to commuting five days a week and continue home-working at least a few days a month? Then deliveries can be scheduled for when someone is at home. For those who can’t work from home, there are two options: shops and couriers adapt by offering early morning and evening deliveries; and local authorities make space on streets for secure lockers, including some suitable for holding chilled food, for people to collect from.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 22 April 2020.