The Circle of Ethical Shopping (Part 1)

5pm, Wednesday, 21st December 2011.  3 days and seven hours to go until Christmas.

One of Ethical Superstore’s priorities when we discussed the busy season six weeks ago was our commitment to getting our customers what they needed in time for Christmas.  Up to 12pm yesterday, orders could still be placed using standard UK delivery and for those who like to leave things to the very last minute, express delivery is available until 12pm tomorrow.  We’ve even temporarily reduced the price of delivery do standard is £2.95 (normally £3.95) and express is £3.95 (normally £5.95)!

At this time of year, everyone’s stress levels rise for whatever reason and this is particularly true for those working in the world of online retail fulfilment.  So I’d like to take you on a journey that I like to call the circle of ethical shopping; taking you from the click of your mouse to the delivery to your door and all the processes in between.

On the website

So you’re browsing Ethical Superstore, clicking your way through the 3,000 ethical, eco friendly, organic and sustainably sourced goodies.  You find what you’re after and click them into your basket.  When you’re satisfied that everyone’s covered, Grandad has his socks, Mum has her gift set and the little one their dumper truck, it’s time to proceed to the checkout.

In the warehouse

Once your order is complete and you have that all important order number and confirmation email, your order darts at the speed of light to our servers and order system.  A few checks are made to protect our customers from online fraud and once we’re happy with it, it is passed to the fulfilment system.  The orders come together ready for picking and our dedicated warehouse admin team print off the delivery notes.  The orders are typically grouped into batches of 8 orders with a master picking list for each batch.  Then, our warehouse team get down to the art of picking.  Each product we stock has a specific location and the fulfilment system knows exactly how much stock is in each.  That information is periodically passed to our order system and website to avoid selling stock that’s not there.

The master pick list takes the picker (elf, if you like – it’s Christmas after all!) on a route around the warehouse picking each product and putting them in a box numbered 1 to 8 on their trolley.  Once they’re done picking, they’ll pop their initials on the top of the picking list and queue up their trolley for packing.

The packing team check each order before securing any “at risk” items, such as shampoo bottle tops and protecting biscuits for their journey. They will then pack out the box with recycled brown paper to keep everything snug and a bug in a box before scanning the barcode on the picking list to produce the courier address label and sealing the box.

Out for delivery

As boxes pile up, they’re stacked onto pallets and taken to the goods-out terminal, ready for collection by our courier partners.  As the boxes are loaded on to the courier’s lorry, each is scanned by the driver, at which point the parcel’s journey begins, being tracked all the way.

From our warehouse, the parcels all go to a local collection depot to be sorted and then taken overnight to a central distribution hub, which further sorts the parcels and sends each on its way to the local delivery depot, closest to the final delivery address.  From there, your order will then be loaded onto a delivery van and the next thing you know, there’s a knock at the door and a happy chappy with a high visibility vest and a cap cheerfully hands you your Ethical Superstore order.  All that’s left is for you to unpack your box, get the kettle on, make some delicious fair trade tea or coffee and get the organic cookies, sit yourself down at your computer and get browsing for your next crop of ethical necessities.  And so, the circle is complete.

To Be Continued… go to part 2

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