The title of this post comes from an old Federal Express (now FedEx) advertising theme – “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” In the United States, FedEx and UPS (United Parcel Sdervice) have captured the bulk of the next day/overnight delivery package market. However, in our endless quest for instantaneous customer satisfaction, a few players have started nibbling at providing same day delivery. While many of these are small regional players like Same Day Delivery of Grand Rapids, UPS (UPS Express Critical), FedEx, and the post office have begun providing same day delivery options. Three non-transportation business behemoths are poised to join the fray – Amazon, Google, and Wal Mart.
Needless to say, this would have huge impacts on transportation infrastructure and land use planning as the entire delivery realm shifts into a whole new hyper-driven paradigm. Amazon alone is constructing million square foot warehouses across the country to provide rapid delivery of its goods. Vans, couriers, and delivery trucks may be cris-crossing our cities at all hours of the day and night and distribution centers could be operating 24/7/365 as airport sorting facilities currently do. As urban planners, we must keep these factors in mind in our daily endeavors.
Needless to say, this 21st century scenario is a far cry from the gentile days when brigs, clippers, and frigates plied the oceans and delivery of mail took multiple months. Or when pony express riders on horseback raced across the Great Plains and Rockies from St. Joseph to Sacramento. Or even more recently when a birthday card took several days to cross the nation.
One has to ask if same day delivery really that important? Don’t we have the least little bit of patience anymore? What’s next – delivery before an item’s ordered or sent? Talk about entering the Twilight Zone! Given the fact that bricks and mortar retailers are competing with digital, same day delivery may very well be the last best hope for them to retain market share. The ironic thing is, those same brick and mortar retailers may become dependent on their principal digital competitor, Amazon, for delivery of their goods. Then, who has the last laugh???