2020 was a year like no other for Landmark Global’s UK division. UK Sales & Client Services Director Jonathan Simons explains how they helped online retailers prepare for Brexit.
Landmark Global’s extensive internal preparations for Brexit started several years ago, UK Sales & Client Services Director Jonathan Simons explains. “Initially, these were weekly ad hoc meetings where we brought all the functions together to try to fully understand what was required for us to manage our retailers’ business and to ensure that the flow of orders into Europe was seamless.”
As the end date of the transition period approached, these workshops started to be held every other day and finally every single day. “We wanted to fully map out the impact of Brexit and the aspects that we would have to consider operationally within our transport and network teams, but also our operations, customer services, IT and finance teams,” Jonathan explains.
In the final days before 31 December 2020, the UK team switched into even higher gear. “Over the period between Christmas and New Year, the team went above and beyond to make this happen. They were 100% committed and did a fantastic job.”
A global effort
From Jan. 1 onward, parcels from the UK to the EU and vice versa would require customs clearance. Because of the Belgian unit’s extensive expertise in import and export procedures, duty and tax optimization and international trade consulting, the decision was made to handle customs clearance there. Jonathan explains: “We are now routing all export flows into the EU through our facility in Belgium, where Landmark Global’s parent company bpost is based. They then handle the outbound line haul to the destination of delivery. This was one of the major changes that we had to manage.”
This internal planning was just one leg of the preparation process, according to Jonathan. The UK team spent as much time and resources on helping customers make sense of all the changes. “Not just our existing customers, but potential customers as well really came to us for advice. We became a sort of adviser to our clients.”
In the last two quarters of the year, the UK sales team and relationships managers fielded weekly calls from retailers, helping them understand the new requirements, offering advice on tax and duties one call at a time. “It was time well spent because it added a huge amount of value for our clients. The feedback we got from them was: ‘That wasn’t something that I’ve experienced with other providers.’ ”
Helping clients make the best choice
Key to this provision of advice was a thorough understanding of online retailers’ concerns, their needs and especially their plans, as this would determine what their order flows into Europe would look like after Brexit. “We have a suite of distribution services. And we needed to make sure we set our clients up for using the right ones from Day One,” Jonathan says.
As a result of Brexit, customs, duties and taxes would after all have to be paid on certain products. This in turn meant that retailers needed to choose whether they would charge an all-in price including import duties and VAT (Delivery Duty Paid) or whether they would leave it to shoppers to pay those charges upon reception of their parcels (Delivered At Place). “If all of a sudden a consumer is getting a phone call or a knock at the door and somebody asks them to pay customs duty, they may not order from that website again,” Jonathan explains. “So, retailers had to make sure that consumers continued to have a seamless experience.”
The UK’s departure from the EU customs union meant that retailers and shippers would need to start providing novel information overnight – from parcel values, to detailed product descriptions. “It’s not a simple thing to switch that on; it’s quite an extensive bit of work,” Jonathan says. “So, we helped ensure that come January 1st our customers would provide all of the information needed to guarantee that their products would get through the border.”
Business as usual
When the post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal was announced close to the end of the transition period, the UK team also helped clients make sense of the agreement. Jonathan explains: “We were able to give our retailers the headlines of that trade deal and what kind of impact it would have on them.”
Only recently has the UK team moved away from the Brexit-focused daily meetings. “The dust is starting to settle and we’re at the point that we were expecting to be, which is very positive. And that’s also being recognized by our customers,” Jonathan says.
Landmark Global’s UK unit has even seen growth in the first quarter of 2021, in spite of the unprecedented challenges – a further win for a division that has grown more than 65% since 2016. The UK unit is looking to invest, Jonathan explains: “There’s no doubt that we’ll need to invest in a much larger-scale building. And that’s just a testament to the hard work of the UK unit. Because we’ve grown the business in such a way that we are going to require more space.”
People, planning, capacity
2020 was a rollercoaster year for the UK team. The global health crisis had a massive impact on the logistics industry, while store closures and lockdowns resulted in record online sales peaks as consumers flocked online. “So, in addition to COVID-19, in addition to planning for Brexit, we were also experiencing super high volumes in orders coming through from our retailers,” Jonathan says.
So, how did they manage the confluence of these three unprecedented developments? Three words, Jonathan says: people, planning and capacity. The UK unit was able to rely on highly skilled transport and network teams that had the needed planning expertise to guarantee the consistent flow of customers’ orders. Landmark Global also increased the capacity of its distribution centers close to Heathrow Airport to be able to handle the increased parcel volumes.
“It’s been a year like no other,” Jonathan muses. “All of this additional work on top of employees’ normal responsibilities … By closely working together, our teams made sure that we looked after our clients during these exceptional times.”
An important trump card
A key objective for the next few years, Jonathan explains, is to make Landmark Global the e-commerce logistics provider of choice in the UK. “My aim is to really demonstrate to retailers that you can manage your European business from the UK, even with a border. By servicing Europe from the UK, they’ll see improvements on transit times and on the speed of orders being delivered to their consumers.”
According to Jonathan, Landmark Global has an important trump card to become the leading UK e-commerce logistics provider in this post-Brexit landscape. “Customs, procedures, processes, the infrastructure of how you do things and how quickly you can move products and get them delivered is all the more important now,” he explains. “We have an internal team of people who are experts on customs procedures and processes, and that’s our Landmark Global trade services team. They’ve played a huge part in how we’ve kept our customers very happy post-Brexit. And they will continue to be a massive advantage as they are a differentiator that many of our competitors don’t have.”