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Behind the Scenes: Adding a EU Fulfilment Centre

Ed Miles
December 6, 2023
3 min read

2021 brought with it a new set of rules for British and European e-commerce sellers. 

The abrupt change left many businesses on the back foot. Cross-border trade between the UK and EU became a challenge often resulting in a poor customer experience or the complete halt of trade between the two regions.

The European market is a huge opportunity for UK sellers and with the forthcoming EU VAT changes, on July the 1st, it will become much easier to sell to the customers in the EU. In order to support sellers with offering a fast and cheap delivery experience in the EU, we are excited to announce the launch of our fulfilment solution in France.

Choosing the right location, fulfilment centre, and working to understand where both Bezos and our sellers stand with VAT has presented its challenges. However, the result is a solution allowing sellers to easily fulfil orders to all EU countries from France. The service can be used as a stand-alone solution or in combination with our UK based fulfilment network by splitting stock between multiple warehouses.

Choosing a Location

Central Europe represents the bulk of the European e-commerce market with France topping the list for highest revenues from e-commerce, followed by Germany, Italy and Spain. With France bordering the other three it was a natural choice, only made stronger by France's decision to remove the need for UK sellers to have fiscal representation in the country.

The chosen fulfilment centre is located on the outskirts of Paris providing easy access to the major metropolitan area.

The fulfilment centre

The chosen fulfilment centre was chosen from a potential list after a rigorous selection process assessing the capabilities.

By using high-end inventory management powered by automation the warehouse is able to borrow from Amazon’s playbook with what is called a ‘chaotic storage’. This model allows products to be stored wherever there is space and keeps track of the location using barcodes leading to more efficient use of space. Additionally, unlike a standard storage model, where similar products are stored close together, ‘chaotic storage’ reduces the chance of employees mixing up similar items. 

Employees are guided to the correct product location, and barcode verification is used to ensure they are selecting the correct product further minimizing the chance of mistakes.

Another example of where automation is used is carrier selection for delivery, while only three delivery speeds are offered Express (next day), Standard (3 day) and Basic (5 day - France only), the actual parcel carrier is automatically selected based on the current performance of their service. This helps ensure that delivery times are always met.

Once an order is picked and packed an automated conveyor system takes the packages, applies the correct shipping label, and takes them to the outbound area of the warehouse for the carrier to collect.

Setup & Testing

All of our fulfilment centres are thoroughly tested before we onboard sellers. We start with ‘sandbox’ tests within the warehouse and the platform ensuring that the technology is integrated correctly. Once these tests are complete a live test of the inbound and outbound process is conducted.

Shipping stock in went as planned, but some minor translation issues were encountered with the shipping speed selection where an order marked for ‘Basic’ delivery speed was imported into the warehouse software as ‘Standard’. Another small compatibility error with the formatting of French and British addresses was quickly fixed.

Only having minor problems during testing is testament to the thorough work of the team. The small errors were quickly fixed so that the solution was ready to go live.

The Launch

With the solution ready we are excited to welcome our first sellers. The service allows UK sellers with European customers to make faster and cheaper deliveries. Without the hassle of customs, there will be no more delays at the border, customs handling fees, and unexpected charges for your customers. The reduced distance the products have to travel cuts both costs and time, giving your customers a better shopping experience.

Get in touch now to find out how we can help your business.

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