W.S. Dennison Safeguarding Against Brexit
What does Brexit mean for the furniture delivery industry in Ireland and what are we doing to safeguard our business from potential Brexit impact?
Founded in 1979, W.S. Dennison remains family-run and now operates from two strategically-located facilities in Antrim in Northern Ireland and Limerick in the Republic of Ireland. Traditionally, W.S. Dennison focused solely on the retail sector, transporting goods from retailers and manufacturers to stores, but later diversified into home delivery, and in 2015 further diversified from solely furniture into white goods and electrical appliances.
On average, the company handles 3,700 pieces of furniture per week and is now also responsible for 500 home deliveries throughout Ireland per week. Home delivery now accounts for over half of the company’s total operations. Specialising in ‘final mile’ logistics, W.S. Dennison has earned a reputation as the route to marketing for furniture in Ireland.
W.S. Dennison operates an all-Ireland transport business that relies on unrestricted movement across the (currently invisible) border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. With Brexit negotiations at a critical phase, and while the UK and EU continue to work towards a positive outcome, the business is preparing for every eventuality, including ‘no deal’.
Pamela Dennison of W.S Dennison has been heavily involved in Brexit preparations, both as part of the W.S. Dennison business and as part of her roles as National Officer and Membership Officer for the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Northern Ireland and Vice Chair of the Northern Ireland Freight Transport Association. Alongside her role in business development at W.S. Dennison, Pamela has also been the driving force behind ‘Brexit-proofing’ her father’s business over the last year.
Pamela explained: “We want to ensure that we can continue to support our customers to deliver the service level that their customers have come to expect. Because of that we do not think it is viable to wait until March to see what is going to happen. We want to be proactive in our preparations for Brexit so that our customers’ Irish marketplace business activity is not affected regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.
We are confident that import customs formalities can, largely, be divorced from the physical movement of goods and that we can maintain supply chains similar to today.
Should the UK exit on 29th March 2019 without a formal agreement, there would be an immediate change to the way business like ours trade with the EU. Customs formalities would be required, and tariffs may apply”.
In addition, potential delays at the Irish border could affect journey time reliability and there is a real threat of increased administration for haulage businesses such as W.S. Dennison. Retailers and consumers have become so accustomed to receiving deliveries within an expected timeframe, either directly to homes via online purchases or from manufacturers to retail stores, and without putting provisions in place, consumers could soon have to get used to a very different expectation.
W.S. Dennison, however, had the foresight to start preparing for Brexit some months ago, starting with the development of a Brexit strategy in conjunction with external specialists. The strategy is now being implemented and is preparing the business for a ‘no deal’ situation as the most extreme, but very possible, outcome. The Brexit consultants that have been engaged to assist in the strategy include advisors to key government agencies in the UK and Ireland. These consultants have been actively involved in designing processes that will enable W.S. Dennison to secure its distribution supply chain and maintain service levels for customers, no matter what shape Brexit eventually takes.
W.S. Dennison is working proactively to streamline its procedures so that it can guarantee service levels post-Brexit, regardless of a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ border and regardless of any other newly introduced customs procedures.
Key to the W.S. Dennison strategy is its secondary depot in Limerick, based on the west coast of Ireland. Currently the majority of furniture brought into Ireland by W.S. Dennison is routed via its Antrim facility initially, where loads are re-consolidated into more viable consignments for onward movement. The Limerick depot, which will still be located within an EU country when/if the UK departs from the European Union, offers an option to ship and re-consolidate via the Republic of Ireland where necessary. It allows the company to complete its all-Ireland delivery process without deviating from its own well-established resources. Preparations at Limerick are underway to ensure that the facility is ready to shoulder the responsibilities that have traditionally been undertaken at Antrim.
Likewise, the company’s all-Ireland delivery process is a major benefit because the business has full control throughout the supply chain. The fact that W.S. Dennison uses only its own in-house team of warehouse operatives and drivers means it can offer full traceability, accountability and consistency of service, from manufacturer/retailer collection to end-user delivery. Today this is a huge benefit to W.S. Dennison’s customers but in the context of Brexit this puts W.S. Dennison in a much more powerful position than its competitors because the contained nature of its supply chain will be favourable to HMRC from a supply chain security and traceability perspective. In contrast, other delivery companies in the sector are known to frequently sub-contract three or even four times throughout the supply chain. The security that W.S. Dennison can offer is unrivalled in comparison to the disjointed supply chains of other delivery companies.
W.S. Dennison is also proactively communicating with customers to identify specific requirements for individual contracts post-Brexit, including establishing any foreseen changes to its customers’ processes. The company is also supporting its customers to prepare for changes, such as encouraging them to apply for Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) numbers where they are not already required, as these are necessary for customs entry declarations clearance procedures for import and/or export shipments travelling to or from the EU.
It also has approved extension plans for an additional floorspace warehouse of some 40,000sq ft, should it be required in the near future.
MD William Dennison explained, “We have built our business on flexibility and have years of experience in tailoring each account to the needs of both our client and their end customer. In terms of the quality of service required, there is very little that we can’t or aren’t willing to do, even if it means training staff to provide a new skill. This means making changes to satisfy the requirements of Brexit won’t come as such a shock to our staff as it might to others because we have that flexibility in our business culture already and our team is constantly adapting to customer requirements”.
The company has introduced a range of measures aimed at combating the possible effects of a hard border. These include a Simplified Customs Procedures and Trusted Trader status, which will speed up and simplify customs procedures, ensuring that customers have an unrestricted service offering. These accreditations have taken some time and involved a heavy financial investment, but the business owners believe that they are important and necessary.
Pamela concluded, “We believe that we are further ahead on Brexit preparations that even some of the major retailers that we are speaking with, so we are confident that we will continue to be best placed to deal with furniture logistics into Ireland regardless of whatever Brexit brings. Like most of the business community in Ireland we are cautious, but because we are doing everything that we can to prepare, we hope that our efforts will be rewarded”.