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Angels add a touch of sparkle in time for Christmas

- Business Operations

4 Min Reading duration

Fiege and Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof take creative approach to Christmas lockdown shopping

The news hit the retail industry hard: lockdown restrictions were tightened to a maximum at the height of the industry’s Christmas season. Many retailers voiced concerns about the year’s most lucrative selling period following a year shaken by Covid-19. To process time-critical orders as fast as possible so that customers could place their gifts in time for Christmas underneath the tree, Fiege and Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof GmbH came up with an innovative delivery concept literally overnight. In an interview with the project’s two leaders, Stefan Schusters, Head of Department Control Tower at FOR Freight GmbH & Co. KG, and Martin Schacht, branch manager of FIEGE Unna GmbH & Co. KG, we take a look back at a turbulent weekend just before Christmas Eve.

What made Fiege call a pop-up delivery project to life together with Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof?

Stefan Schusters: The volume of parcels literally explodes every year right around Christmas. The number of people that shy away from doing their Christmas shopping in packed highstreets and rather order their gifts online continues to grow. Last year once again saw parcel services issue their forecasts early on the delivery volume they were expecting as well as the cut-off date by which they could ensure a timely delivery for Christmas. However, many of these plans proved obsolete by the time the even tighter lockdown restrictions were announced in mid-December. Those who love to shop had to abandon their Christmas strolls, many shops either didn’t or couldn’t provide Click&Collect services, and the courier services we work with informed us that the cut-off date for parcels to arrive in time for Christmas was 19 December. That was when Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof approached us to seek an alternative solution.

And what did that look like?

Stefan Schusters: We introduced our subsidiary, Angel Last Mile GmbH to our client. The EU-subsidised start-up explores more efficient ways to tackle inner-city logistics and meet the increased demand for same-day deliveries or deliveries in the evening hours. Our counterparts were immediately convinced. The final decision in favour of an innovative approach called Angel bringt’s (Angel delivers) was taken on Thursday, 17 December at around about 6 pm. We then created a task force which, next to FOR Freight’s Control Tower which was in charge of operations, and Fiege Unna, also included representatives of Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof, Fiege X Log – the joint venture handling the logistics – as well as Angel bringt’s.

Which challenges did Fiege have to overcome?

Stefan Schusters: In a first step, the goal was to secure dependable, purposeful communications across all project partners involved. For this, our task force held a video call meeting twice a day. Beyond this it was crucial to set up the respective IT processes to enable a smooth data flow. After all, without the respective labels that indicate the required information, such a volume of parcels cannot be coordinated. Our client in particular demonstrated utmost flexibility.

Martin Schacht: Even from the logistical side, we had to create completely new workarounds in order to live up to what was required. Within 24 hours, we readied additional areas at our branch in Unna which tends to handle eCommerce fulfilment for products that are Christmas favourites, such as toys or fragrances, at Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof. On top of this, employees were briefed on the new project.

And what did the handling look like?

Martin Schacht: First, all parcels had to be pre-sorted. Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof immediately modified their IT for this and added a number between one and five to the details displayed on shipping labels. This extra info allowed us to accurately attribute parcels to the respective postal code areas. Angel distribution hubs in Berlin, Dortmund, Krefeld, Leverkusen, and Munich were the destinations. All adjustments were made over the weekend and we started sorting first thing Monday morning. Ten colleagues handled this on location in Unna.

Stefan Schusters: Organising the main runs was then again the job of FOR Freight’s Control Tower. The tricky thing here was that at the time we organised everything we had no idea about the volume of parcels that we would have to move. Moreover, freight capacities are naturally scarce before Christmas. But once again, working with Angel was just great and we were quickly able get the respective transport resources up and running. By Tuesday evening, all parcels had reached their respective hubs and Angel started dispatching them on Wednesday morning.

Gute Laune unter den Weihnachtsengeln

Did all this effort prove worthwhile?

Martin Schacht: Definitely. Within the scope of the project, we delivered around 3,500 parcels on 22 and 23 December in time for Christmas. Also, we included a post card with a special Christmas message from Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof in every package. The Christmas Angels thus brought a smile to many people. The feedback was highly positive. It seems that we hit just the right nerve with our campaign in this special year.

And what is your summary of all of this?

Martin Schacht: Considering the complexity of the challenges that had to be mastered we are more than satisfied with the project’s outcome. All flows ran smoothly at short notice and without major hiccups. Especially the swift and straightforward collaboration between the different organisational units was impressive. Our client, Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof proved to be extremely flexible especially when it came to finding a quick solution for IT obstacles. It is our mission to always find creative and innovative logistical concepts for our clients. “There’s no such thing as can’t do” probably best sums up the Fiege mentality.

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