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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Milkmen deliver on web shopping promise
bottles of milk
Express dairies is planning to deliver much more than milk
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

The humble milk float is joining the information revolution.

Express Dairies has signed a deal to use its fleet of floats to deliver the goods that people order online.

The move could resolve the delivery dilemma facing many electronic businesses and provide a business boost for threatened milkmen.

Trials of the service are due to begin in large cities soon.

No-one home

Although e-commerce is proving ever more popular online firms face a problem when delivering the goods.

The Consumer Association's Which? Online says the main reason companies are thrown out of its web trader scheme is because of problems with deliveries and customer service.

Often the people who order online work all day and can't spend all day at home waiting for groceries, books or videos to be delivered.

This means that delivery firms have to try to catch people early in the morning before they go to work or late at night when they are home.

But this leaves companies with only a couple of hours in the morning and evening to make good on their promise to deliver and limits the numbers of customers they can serve.

In the US companies such as Streamline are solving the problem by installing a lockable coolbox in the homes of customers.

Goods are delivered at any time of the day and left in the box.

But in Britain's crowded inner cities, where many online shoppers live, there is no space to put large lockers that can hold deliveries.

More than milk

Now Express Dairies is planning to use its fleet of 4,000 milk floats to get the goods ordered online to customers.

Express claims that its floats pass the doors of 7 million households every day.

"Failure to meet customer expectations in the final stages of the supply chain has been widely identified as the major barrier to the growth of online shopping," said Neil Davidson, Chief Executive of Express Dairies.

Express Dairies is spending 4m with fulfilment company M-Box to set up the service which will be trialled soon in the country's major towns and cities.

New services to get online goods to people are springing up all the time.

In May Dropzone1 announced its service which will deliver goods to local shops near the homes of those who ordered them.

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