24 Hour Parcel People Modern Times


24 Hour Parcel People

Documentary series about life in contemporary Britain. The story of how City Link tried to survive in the high-stakes world of overnight deliveries, before entering administration.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Ooh, very nice. Like Christmas Day.

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Nobody actually knew that this was coming,

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apart from the ones in charge of City Link.

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I knew the company was losing money. We all knew that, but

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we were always told that we were doing better.

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And then all of a sudden it's just gone.

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Someone turns round and says,

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"Well, we're not making money, we're going to close you down."

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MUSIC: William Tell Overture by Rossini

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In 2014, the number of parcels delivered in the UK

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would exceed two billion for the very first time.

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Hello...?

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Thank you, see you again!

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City Link would handle over 60 million of these,

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so City Link delivery men like Shabaz Ali

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would be run off their feet.

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About 140 stops a day, so every time I stop, I deliver.

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See you again. Ta-ra.

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I'm starting knocking doors about 8 o'clock in the morning

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and I work all the way through.

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All right, cheers.

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-There you go.

-Cheers.

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Every three or four minutes I'm stopping, delivering...

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Do you run the whole route?

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I do, yeah. I tend to run cos it's, er, quicker.

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While us customers might happily deliberate for weeks

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about what to buy online, we're often less patient

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when it comes to waiting for things to arrive.

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Keeps you fit, running round, though.

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It is hard. It is hard some days

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when you're sat there with over 200 deliveries on your van

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and you're thinking, well...

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Then you get caught up in traffic

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and you're pulling your hair out cos you're missing time slots.

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But erm...you've just got to crack on with it, just don't give up.

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Shabaz's commitment to the job

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has made him one of the company's top delivery men,

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and inspired his brother Naj to follow in his footsteps.

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Tell me about the number plate.

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I bought it to wind the wife up. But it is literally true,

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I am never home.

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Sign and print, just on the screen there...

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Dinner time, coffee time's like a swear word in this game.

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You don't even undo your seat belt!

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No, no. It's easier to do it this way, it's a quick way of doing it.

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He's always running!

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We used to deliver a lot to businesses when I first started,

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but now I think the houses have overtaken.

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-I deliver more to houses than I do to businesses now.

-Why is that?

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Cos online shopping, it's what... It's the new thing, innit?

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Buying online, shopping online.

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A lot of people would rather sit there and shop online

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than go out and buy stuff.

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Christmas time, it's easier just to sit down at a computer

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and do your Christmas shopping online, not even leave the house!

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But it's good for us.

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Right. Back to it, yeah?

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# Dimples and cherry cheeks

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# Cherry cheeks Cherry cheeks

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# Those pretty dimples and cherry cheeks

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# Sweet enough to eat

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# I rode one day to Santa Fe... #

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Poppy Sommerville owes her love of online shopping

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to her prize puppies.

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With her husband regularly away on business,

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she can lavish her attention on Chloe, Harvey and Bonnie-Bow.

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It is a no expense spared thing with my dogs.

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They go more or less everywhere with me. They stay in hotels.

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Most of my friends -

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and I've got quite a long list of people who have said this to me -

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they're going to be reincarnated as my dog.

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I'm like, "Join the queue."

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Cos there's just so many of them.

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That's quite a compliment, isn't it?

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I mean, everybody says it to me.

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Unimpressed by the canine treats available locally,

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Poppy turned to the internet...

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and she's never looked back.

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If everything could be done online

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and I could have everything delivered,

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and I didn't have to spend a day ever going shopping outside again,

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I would be quite happy.

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Because I just feel it's a waste of time, shopping.

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So these are the crates which they sleep in at night.

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So I order all of these on the internet,

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and these are the doggy quilts.

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So that's a summer harness, very lightweight,

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and it's got the bows and the crystals.

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So these are the dog collars. One for every occasion.

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Some of the T-shirts are for when it's really hot,

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so they don't get sunburnt.

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"King Pup."

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He looks nice in black, Harvey.

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I do want to pull up the drawbridge and have peace.

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Maybe that's why I like online shopping.

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Because when I'm here, why do I want to go into a big town and shop?

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I know that if I need to get something,

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I probably will be able to get it,

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without having to drive to a few towns to try and find it.

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-# There's a rainbow

-# You can see the rainbow

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-# In the valley

-# Way down in the valley

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# Since you... #

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When I've got a delivery, a lot of people can't find the house,

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so I usually see them on the camera

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driving up the road.

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And then they'll drive back down the road,

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and then they'll drive back up the road. And then they'll ring me.

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'So is it on the right or left as I'm going up?'

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If you're going up, it's on the right-hand side.

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# He must know it's my lucky day... #

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What have we got here, Bonnie?

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I love getting parcels in the post.

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Next day delivery is really important,

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because it doesn't tie up the rest of the week.

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These are cooling fans. To keep you nice and cool in your crates.

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It's a fan.

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And then that'll just act as a cooler.

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I always opt for next day, or named day.

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At least if it's named, you know when it's going to arrive.

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Who wants to hang around for parcels being delivered. We don't, do we?

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The demand for deliveries within 24 hours means the courier business

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is now more competitive and pressurised than ever before.

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A parcel can be sent from Scotland to Wales overnight.

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It's er...it's crazy how they do it, but it happens every day.

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Before it reaches the hands of the delivery men,

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a parcel will travel from source to a central hub near Coventry,

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where it's redirected to its final destination.

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I wouldn't like to work there, in the hub.

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Cos I bet it is absolutely manic there.

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MUSIC: Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss

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This is the heart of City Link's delivery network,

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but with parcel volumes increasing every year

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and greater demand for next day delivery,

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the business has been struggling to cope, and haemorrhaging money.

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When I joined in May of 2012,

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for the previous company's financial year,

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which is January to December,

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they'd just posted a £34 million loss.

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Bob Powner is an industry veteran, and has been recruited by City Link

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to help get them out of the red and into shape for the future.

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My own family don't appreciate what happens. They order online,

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and they think that they press the enter key on the keyboard,

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and somehow miraculously it gets delivered tomorrow morning.

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We don't put any thought really into what happens -

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we just all expect that it's going to be there tomorrow.

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Trying to manually handle

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the 200,000 parcels passing through the hub every day

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has been proving a challenge.

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So Bob wants to modernise,

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and is overseeing the design of a new sorting machine

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to help City Link cope with rising demand.

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We're just coming up to the new sorter that we're installing.

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It's a really exciting time because it's a big investment,

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it increases capacity in the hub.

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It weighs the freight, it scans the freight,

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and it sorts the freight to a particular destination,

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therefore reducing the risk of mis-sorts.

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About to go bust in 2013,

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City Link was taken over by investment company Better Capital.

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Their appointed managing director Dave Smith is confident

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that Bob is the right man to help turn the company round.

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Better's view, shared really by the board of directors,

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is that it's a growing marketplace,

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and with the right investment in technology, in equipment, in people,

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we can move into a very successful future.

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And it says to our employees there's a bright future here.

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With City Link trying to claw back its place as a contender

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in the £6 billion delivery industry,

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there's a lot riding on the success of Bob's machine.

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This is costing well in excess of £1 million.

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So that's quite a heavy investment.

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I wouldn't say it was a brave move,

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because I have so much confidence that it's going to work.

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It's a journey we can achieve.

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I mean, already we can start seeing light at the end of the tunnel,

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and that light is quite bright.

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And part of that light is in the sorter,

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and that is a real big signal to everyone who works in City Link

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that our owners are taking it seriously,

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taking our strategy seriously, believe in us

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and know that we'll turn the corner financially.

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Between the courier companies and the customers

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are the businesses, that must also embrace the future to survive -

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even when their brand is a hymn to the past.

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Fanny! Fanny...

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What are we going to be putting up on the ceiling here?

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We might actually put a chandelier, I'm not sure.

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-OK, good.

-Possibly the one that we've got next door -

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we'll just put it up there and it'll just...bing!

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It'll be a central... good eye-catcher.

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-I think something sympathetic to the room would be fantastic.

-OK.

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Liz Mouat is Laura Ashley's Head of Buying,

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and in charge of making their merchandise

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irresistible to online shoppers.

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What we aim to do is make our products

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look really comfortable and at home in some amazing properties.

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The idea is that they should be aspirational as well as inspirational.

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-Yeah. It looks lovely there, doesn't it?

-Yeah. Twinkle.

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Right now, just 20% of the company's sales are made online,

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but by harnessing the full potential of the web,

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Liz is intent on seeing that figure grow.

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What's fantastic about having the internet,

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we essentially have, to a certain extent, elastic walls.

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We call them elastic shelves, elastic walls.

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We can get so much more product on the online website

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than we can in stores.

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Mel Mel Davies has been making the trip across town

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to her local Laura Ashley store for the last 25 years -

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but now all that's changed.

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Since the internet came along, it makes it much easier for me

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to buy things and have the parcels delivered to my house,

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which is the bit I now enjoy immensely.

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How does your home make you feel?

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Safe and cosy, I think would be my two words.

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Yeah, I like the idea of that kind of, like, cosy feeling

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when I get home from work at the end of the day.

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If I could have my ultimate dream,

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I think it'd be a thatched cottage in a country village.

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I grew up here in Moss Side -

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busy, diverse cultural area -

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and I don't think my house reflects sort of inside

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what goes on outside actually, in this area.

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I decided that when I bought the seat pad, I'd buy the bunting...

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Nice little Laura Ashley frame here.

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This one room is done in Laura Ashley paint. Laura Ashley bed linen there.

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Bought this from Laura Ashley, it's an initial of my name.

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I bought this clock.

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It's meant to look like the inside of a grandfather clock.

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It gives you the inspiration to like, make a home,

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and I think that's a lost art these days.

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Liz wants to reinvigorate the lost art of homemaking,

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as well as company profits, with the help of the latest gadgets.

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It is amazing how much our customers really do want that ease of shopping,

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especially on the iPad which enables you to be a bit more flexible

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and you can move around the room.

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That as a drape... would look lovely really.

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I can visualise that, and I could put something next to it,

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like a cushion or something, and see how I was going to work a colour.

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Almost like I'm putting a tiny cushion on the sofa,

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so you can get an idea.

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If I was going to buy this chair and this footstool,

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I probably would use it in an area like that in the corner of a room.

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-Hi. Morning.

-How are you doing, all right?

-Good, thanks. Cheers.

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Quite exciting actually.

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Even though I know what I've ordered, I'm sort of still eager to see it

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because you've got it in the house

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and you can see where it's going to go.

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Oh, that's good.

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Two new seat pads, which will replace the ones I've got down there.

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So it's nice, cos it's almost like it's come from a boutique

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because you've got the nice tissue paper, and I like that

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cos it makes it a bit special.

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Mel Mel's dress, along with her other special buys,

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have come from the company's warehouse in Wales,

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where Helen Green oversees the picking and packing

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of 90,000 online purchases every month.

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This dress is, erm...

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one of the most current dresses -

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it's not actually part of the launch that we're in now, it's been a previous launch.

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OK, I'm really pleased with this.

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It looks pretty.

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It certainly makes me feel special wearing a dress like this.

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How many of these dresses came in originally, do you reckon?

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Probably between 1,000 and 2,000 units, I would think.

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Sold quite effectively, and we don't have a lot of these units left now.

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This was £50, but it's an investment buy.

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I know I'm going to get a lot of use out of that.

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This again is a very popular version, another throw.

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People pick a lot of bedding. An awful lot of bedding.

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Nostalgia is what goes through your head when you think of Laura Ashley.

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I do have a love of the '40s,

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a feeling of times gone by. The simple life that people used to live.

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You know, potentially growing your own vegetables,

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and a sense of community that we've lost these days in a lot of places.

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I think the technology is part of the life we're living now,

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and I know some people would say, are we going to lose the whole thing

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of the high street, are we going to lose that as a community centre?

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But I just, you know... It's a difficult one.

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I'm busy, so I don't get to get to the shops in the same way

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that I used to. It's sort of like, a necessary evil, if you like.

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Oh, shopping's changed immensely.

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Most people are going internet now, aren't they?

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Their lives are too busy and they're basically going the internet route.

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I think the general town little shop areas is...

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is going to be a thing of the past, unfortunately.

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-Do you think?

-I think so, yeah. Yeah.

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It's been 20 years since a CD became the first item bought online.

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And back then, our web purchases tended to be small and inexpensive.

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But as our love of internet shopping continues to grow,

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so too does the size and value of the packages being sent.

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We'll do your baby seats, mattresses...

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So we do do the larger freight,

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which some of our competitors don't really want

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and would never entertain putting on their automation systems.

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Bob's new sorting machine is due to go live in just a matter of days.

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So it's undergoing a series of last-minute tests

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to ensure it's fit for purpose.

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I hope things don't go wrong,

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but if they are going to go wrong then I want to find them now.

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Well, everybody's looking at this through, not just the eyes of

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it's a piece of machinery and it'll work and that's fine,

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but it's much more about the symbolism

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of where it's taking the business

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and the hope for the business for the future.

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Cheers, buddy. Ta, mate.

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But unfortunately for Bob,

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the machine is malfunctioning.

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Stop.

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'Better are... They're like all shareholders, really.

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'What they want is a business that's successful,'

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and ultimately, do we make a profit

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and do we make a return for the shareholders?

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The data logic guy doesn't know what the issue is currently? OK.

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It's absolutely vital that this piece of equipment works...

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..because if it doesn't,

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the next time the operation comes in and says we need something -

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"You sure that's going to work? You haven't got a great track record."

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How's it going?

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-Not very well.

-Why?

-They're trying to work out the issue.

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Confident, yes, but with a degree of nervousness attached to it

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borne out of 20 years of experience watching some of those things

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not work as well as you'd hope.

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If it is the compressor, they knew about it yesterday,

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it should have been sorted in time for today.

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I am ultimately responsible, and it's started to get a bit hairy now

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cos the company's reputation and my personal reputation's

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hanging on this.

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I can see me going a bit greyer in the next couple of days, to be fair.

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As more sophisticated systems are developed,

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it's become possible to deliver

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even the most delicate and fragile of goods to our front doors.

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It's one of the things that we quite enjoy, that

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if it's someone coming for the first time

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there's nothing at the front that gives a clue,

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and they walk through what looks like a fairly normal terraced house

0:21:520:21:57

and they come out the back and - "Oh! Wow."

0:21:570:21:59

Gaz Jones has created an exotic jungle

0:22:020:22:06

in the back yard of his two-bed semi in Luton,

0:22:060:22:09

and most of his precious plants have reached their new home

0:22:090:22:13

by overnight delivery.

0:22:130:22:14

We like to buy things from specialist nurseries,

0:22:150:22:18

because they have the things

0:22:180:22:19

that the big garden centres and the big boxed sheds just don't have.

0:22:190:22:22

I think online is so crucial to that, because first of all

0:22:220:22:25

you wouldn't find out about a lot of these plants very quickly.

0:22:250:22:29

Would having this garden be possible without online shopping?

0:22:330:22:36

You'd be able to create something similar -

0:22:360:22:39

the Victorians loved exotic plants and they didn't have the internet -

0:22:390:22:42

but it would have been a slower process.

0:22:420:22:45

Do you think the garden is a reflection of your personality?

0:22:450:22:49

I'm not sure. Probably.

0:22:500:22:52

I work for an accountancy firm

0:22:520:22:55

so I guess accountants have a reputation

0:22:550:22:57

for being boring, introverted characters,

0:22:570:23:00

so I don't know whether this is that kind of garden.

0:23:000:23:03

I like to think it's not.

0:23:030:23:05

Gaz has been nurturing his tropical paradise for the last nine years,

0:23:060:23:10

ably assisted by his equally green-fingered partner.

0:23:100:23:14

For a lot of people we know that are growing gardens like this,

0:23:150:23:18

the husband or the wife that's the non-gardener reins them back in

0:23:180:23:22

and says, "No, we've got to go and see Great Auntie Mabel"

0:23:220:23:24

or whatever it might be at the weekend, whereas we go to a garden centre and we both get excited.

0:23:240:23:29

Gaz and Mark have been together for ten years,

0:23:320:23:35

and for Mark, their garden is a little slice of home.

0:23:350:23:39

I'm originally from the Philippines. I'm a nurse.

0:23:410:23:44

I like the fact that I take care of patients

0:23:440:23:47

and at the same time when I get home, I take care of plants.

0:23:470:23:50

So I suppose in that manner it matches with my nature.

0:23:500:23:54

I like to care, as cheesy as that may sound.

0:23:540:23:57

I saw these ducks. Something not so serious.

0:23:590:24:02

It was my idea, I saw them in the shop and thought, "Ooh, I like it."

0:24:020:24:06

Knowing me, I don't just stop at one so I bought a couple more,

0:24:060:24:08

so I've got three of these rubber duckies now.

0:24:080:24:13

How much do you think you've spent on plants online?

0:24:130:24:16

Can we plead the Fifth(?)

0:24:160:24:18

How long is a string?

0:24:220:24:24

There's no need to know, we don't need to know.

0:24:240:24:27

And you'd probably look at the number and go, ouch!

0:24:270:24:29

-But thousands?

-Yes.

-Yes.

0:24:290:24:32

Like many couples with busy careers,

0:24:360:24:38

almost all of Gaz and Mark's shopping is now done

0:24:380:24:40

via their computer, and delivered to their home.

0:24:400:24:44

All the roof tiles, garden furniture -

0:24:440:24:47

even the double glazing, electronics, appliances.

0:24:470:24:50

Our dining chairs.

0:24:500:24:52

Even one of our cats we bought via an advert on Gumtree.

0:24:520:24:55

-The cat's called Knickers.

-Knickers.

0:24:550:24:58

But today, it's a selection of exotic shrubs

0:25:020:25:05

that have tickled their fancy.

0:25:050:25:07

-You happy with this one?

-Mm-hm.

-OK, "add item to my wheelbarrow".

0:25:070:25:10

With a tap of the keyboard, Gaz and Mark put in motion a chain of events

0:25:110:25:16

that should ensure their precious plants arrive safe and sound

0:25:160:25:19

and within 24 hours.

0:25:190:25:21

MUSIC: Flight Of The Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov

0:25:260:25:29

Deep in the mountains of Snowdonia lies Crug Farm,

0:25:310:25:35

where Gaz and Mark's exotic order is just arriving.

0:25:350:25:39

You get the feel of what sort of garden people have.

0:25:390:25:43

This person looks as if he's got sort of a tropical type of garden.

0:25:430:25:46

Arran Flame...

0:25:500:25:51

Can you get me one from the back too please, cos they're flowering...

0:25:510:25:55

'We're really out of the way here.

0:25:550:25:57

'I think without going into the mail order, we might have closed.'

0:25:570:26:01

So this has been our saving grace, I'm sure.

0:26:010:26:03

The main secret is not to have them rattling about in the box.

0:26:090:26:12

The whole thing is to get the plants to the customer in good condition.

0:26:190:26:23

I also like the packaging to look neat...

0:26:230:26:27

..rather than scruffy. Like me.

0:26:280:26:31

-All right, CJ?

-Yes. How you doing, John?

0:26:410:26:44

-How many have you got for us?

-Three.

-OK.

0:26:440:26:47

-OK, CJ, see you tomorrow.

-Yeah.

0:26:510:26:54

Next stop for Gaz and Mark's package

0:26:540:26:57

is the local depot in Wales,

0:26:570:26:59

where it's loaded onto a lorry

0:26:590:27:01

ready for the 200km drive to the Coventry hub.

0:27:010:27:04

And as most of us are settling down for the evening,

0:27:080:27:10

lorry driver Rob is beginning his shift.

0:27:100:27:14

This is my home for the night.

0:27:160:27:18

I have my satnav, so I don't get lost!

0:27:180:27:21

Crisps, chocolate bars. I know I shouldn't.

0:27:210:27:25

Music as well - Stereophonics, Meat Loaf.

0:27:250:27:28

I've got my Welsh flag, there's a bed,

0:27:280:27:30

I've got a little oven.

0:27:300:27:31

A pasty or something and warm it up - 20 minutes, boiling hot.

0:27:310:27:35

HORN TOOTS

0:27:380:27:40

I love driving, I totally love it.

0:27:420:27:45

It's the best job I've had.

0:27:450:27:47

Rob makes a round trip between Wales and Coventry five nights a week.

0:27:480:27:53

With another two hours till he arrives,

0:27:530:27:55

the central hub is already reaching its nightly peak.

0:27:550:27:58

Why is it so busy?

0:28:110:28:12

Every day, we're getting a lot more freight in.

0:28:190:28:22

So we've got extra trailers, more freight's coming in.

0:28:220:28:24

Do you feel the pressure?

0:28:240:28:26

No, it's an everyday thing for me.

0:28:260:28:29

-Are you on time?

-Yeah, I'm ahead of my time tonight.

0:28:310:28:34

So er...yeah. Everything is good, so far!

0:28:340:28:37

An army of 200 work through the night

0:28:520:28:55

to ensure the parcels are sorted and sent out to the correct locations.

0:28:550:29:00

The lynchpins in the system are the 66 forklift truck drivers,

0:29:010:29:05

who must load and unload the lorries at breakneck speed.

0:29:050:29:09

'It's organised chaos.

0:29:100:29:12

'Turnaround roughly about 180,000,

0:29:120:29:15

'200,000 plus parcels in a four-and-a-half-hour window.

0:29:150:29:18

'So the pace of the job is quick.'

0:29:180:29:20

'It's not a job for the faint-hearted.

0:29:230:29:25

'When you've got 66 trucks in a warehouse,

0:29:250:29:28

'shooting out of 48 doors,

0:29:280:29:29

'100-and-some-odd drivers,

0:29:290:29:31

'it's going to have danger.'

0:29:310:29:32

Tony has been a forklift driver for the past 15 years.

0:29:440:29:48

And he's one of the most skilled in the business.

0:29:480:29:51

The job itself, because I've been doing it so long, is second nature.

0:29:510:29:56

It takes... Oh, you can't really explain it.

0:29:560:29:59

You're a little bit different.

0:29:590:30:01

-It's just a job that not everybody can take to.

-No.

0:30:010:30:05

And you need that sort of...

0:30:050:30:07

..capability to be able to drive a truck to a certain level.

0:30:080:30:13

-If you haven't got that level...

-There's no point being out there.

0:30:130:30:16

..you wouldn't do it.

0:30:160:30:17

-Concentration is a must.

-Yeah, definitely.

0:30:170:30:20

You cannot afford to switch off.

0:30:200:30:22

You switch off, and you'll have an accident or...

0:30:220:30:26

unfortunately cause some damage.

0:30:260:30:28

What do you buy online?

0:30:320:30:34

I don't shop online.

0:30:340:30:35

Truthfully, I've never had a mobile phone. I don't use PCs.

0:30:350:30:39

I don't drive. I haven't got a licence.

0:30:390:30:41

I've never been to the bank and I've never had a credit card.

0:30:410:30:45

So obviously I live a life which is a simple life.

0:30:450:30:48

I'm not into modern technology.

0:30:480:30:51

To be honest, I don't really buy online myself.

0:30:550:30:57

-RADIO CHATTER

-I have a few times in the past.

0:30:570:30:59

I prefer to go to shop and just buy something then and there.

0:30:590:31:03

Do you shop online yourself?

0:31:030:31:06

No!

0:31:060:31:07

Nah.

0:31:080:31:09

Buying online? HE SIGHS

0:31:090:31:12

I suppose it's all right.

0:31:120:31:14

I haven't tried it yet, personally.

0:31:140:31:16

It's going to take a great force to twist my arm to try it as well!

0:31:180:31:22

RADIO: Since You Been Gone by Rainbow

0:31:220:31:27

What do you buy online?

0:31:270:31:28

Very little.

0:31:300:31:32

Um...

0:31:320:31:33

The last thing I bought online was my marker lights

0:31:330:31:36

on the front of the lorry.

0:31:360:31:37

They were the last things I done.

0:31:370:31:39

And I got another truck driver to do it

0:31:390:31:41

cos he had an eBay account. I haven't got one.

0:31:410:31:45

Just before midnight, Rob pulls in at Coventry...

0:31:480:31:52

..and the forklift team sets to work unloading his cargo of parcels.

0:32:020:32:06

That's our new multi-million pound sorting machine.

0:32:100:32:14

Is that making your job easier?

0:32:140:32:16

Well, they said it's going to be easier,

0:32:160:32:18

but when it's fully up and running.

0:32:180:32:21

By 3:00am, Rob's ready for the three-hour journey

0:32:250:32:29

back to his depot,

0:32:290:32:30

his trailer refilled with parcels destined for homes around Wales.

0:32:300:32:36

RADIO: Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf

0:32:360:32:39

HE SINGS ALONG: # Like a bat out of hell

0:32:390:32:41

# I'll be gone when the morning comes

0:32:410:32:44

# When the night is over Na-na-na hell

0:32:450:32:48

# I'll be gone, gone, gone...

0:32:480:32:51

# Like a bat out of hell

0:32:510:32:52

# I'll be gone when the morning comes... #

0:32:520:32:55

If I get four hours' sleep, I know it doesn't sound a lot,

0:32:550:33:00

but four hours' sleep seems to work for me.

0:33:000:33:04

A lot of people say, "Oh, I couldn't do your job."

0:33:040:33:08

I say, "What, drive a truck or work nights?"

0:33:080:33:11

And nine times out of ten, the answer is work nights.

0:33:110:33:15

I think you get used to being on your own.

0:33:150:33:18

I've been doing it for eight years

0:33:180:33:21

and I don't regret...working nights.

0:33:210:33:26

Because I love the job I'm doing.

0:33:290:33:31

I love driving,

0:33:310:33:33

and driving a truck is just the icing on the cake.

0:33:330:33:38

Are nights bad for relationships?

0:33:400:33:42

Um...

0:33:450:33:47

..I'd probably say yes to that.

0:33:490:33:51

I'd probably say yes to that.

0:33:520:33:54

-Can we pull in by here?

-Yeah.

0:33:580:34:00

Yeah, that's a sore subject with me at the moment, that is.

0:34:000:34:03

Well, I'm divorced now. So...

0:34:030:34:08

Yeah, that one's a bit of a sore...

0:34:080:34:12

..sore subject, that one is.

0:34:140:34:16

HE CHUCKLES

0:34:160:34:18

By 6:00am,

0:34:270:34:28

Gaz and Mark's plants have arrived at a depot outside London

0:34:280:34:33

after a 400km journey through Wales and England.

0:34:330:34:36

Do you know what that is?

0:34:390:34:41

If you see someone making that effort

0:34:410:34:44

it should be something that's very exotic,

0:34:440:34:47

probably something maybe a bit expensive.

0:34:470:34:49

Yeah, probably some very expensive plants.

0:34:540:34:56

Posh plants!

0:34:560:34:58

And hopefully it won't get crushed by any heavy boxes.

0:34:590:35:03

-Should be all right.

-You hope.

0:35:030:35:05

It should be all right.

0:35:050:35:06

Not I hope, it should be all right. Cos that's my job, to get it...

0:35:060:35:09

You have to be careful. Even if...

0:35:110:35:13

If I was sending a parcel, I don't want it to be damaged.

0:35:130:35:16

So I always try and take care of all the parcels with the utmost care.

0:35:160:35:20

Elton Chirata has a whole day of deliveries ahead of him

0:35:260:35:29

before he's due to hand over the precious plants.

0:35:290:35:33

I've been very excited.

0:35:440:35:45

Something nice to look forward to after a stressful day at work,

0:35:450:35:49

to have nice goodies, nice plants to add to the garden.

0:35:490:35:52

Gaz and Mark's estimated delivery time is between 4:00 and 6:00pm.

0:35:530:35:58

But Elton is battling to stay on schedule.

0:35:590:36:03

I'm about 20 minutes behind on my ETA,

0:36:040:36:07

but I'm still within the window so I'm still good.

0:36:070:36:10

'A little bit of hesitation and anticipation.

0:36:120:36:14

'Excitement of what they're actually going to look like.'

0:36:140:36:18

Ooh, very nice. Like Christmas Day!

0:36:230:36:25

Fantastic.

0:36:250:36:27

-Wow.

-Enjoy your plants.

-Thank you so much.

0:36:270:36:29

All right, bye-bye.

0:36:290:36:31

Welcome home, guys.

0:36:360:36:38

Welcome home, guys!

0:36:420:36:43

You know, I've been doing it for years

0:36:460:36:48

but the excitement is still exactly the same each time, you know?

0:36:480:36:51

Every shipment is, ooh, very exciting.

0:36:510:36:54

I can't wait to open it.

0:36:540:36:55

But I'll take pictures first because this is something to relish.

0:36:550:36:59

What I'll do is I'll just relish the box,

0:37:020:37:04

pay homage to it, take a few pictures

0:37:040:37:06

and I'll send them to Gaz before I open it.

0:37:060:37:08

I should have enough.

0:37:100:37:11

There you go.

0:37:120:37:14

This should make Gaz's phone buzz.

0:37:140:37:17

PHONE BEEPS

0:37:170:37:19

Box from Crug Farm has arrived.

0:37:230:37:25

-Oh, hello.

-Hiya.

-Hiya. Did you see the photo?

0:37:310:37:34

Yeah, I did see the photo.

0:37:340:37:36

-Ta-da!

-Ta-da!

-Wow.

0:37:370:37:40

Ooh-la-la.

0:37:400:37:41

Have you ever given any thought to how these parcels get to you?

0:37:410:37:46

Not in any great detail, really.

0:37:460:37:48

You kind of just sort of imagine it...

0:37:480:37:51

probably a smaller operation than it really is.

0:37:510:37:54

You think there's a guy with a van

0:37:540:37:55

who picks it up and brings it to your door.

0:37:550:37:57

-I bet it's not!

-But clearly there are depots and all sorts in the way.

0:37:570:38:00

You only care really when something goes wrong.

0:38:000:38:03

I think you expect it to work and to arrive when it is supposed to arrive

0:38:030:38:07

and that's kind of down to them,

0:38:070:38:09

to work out how to schedule all of that.

0:38:090:38:12

As the customer, you just want it to turn up without any damages

0:38:120:38:16

at the point in time when it's supposed to arrive,

0:38:160:38:20

-with minimal fuss, really.

-Mm-hm.

0:38:200:38:22

Hannah speaking, how may I help you?

0:38:300:38:32

Can I take your consignment number, please?

0:38:320:38:35

It's James calling from the escalations team...

0:38:350:38:38

My name's Jamie, I'm calling from the escalation team in Hatfield.

0:38:380:38:42

'When you order something online,

0:38:420:38:44

'it's not a single person making that... You know, packaging it

0:38:440:38:47

'and delivering it to your doorstep.

0:38:470:38:48

'It has to go through weighing, it has to go through packaging,

0:38:480:38:51

'it has to go from A to B.

0:38:510:38:53

'And it's not often that things go wrong,

0:38:530:38:55

'but unfortunately things DO go wrong.'

0:38:550:38:58

PHONE RINGS

0:38:590:39:01

City Link, Hannah speaking, how may I help you?

0:39:010:39:05

Hannah is part of a customer service team

0:39:050:39:07

that takes around 2,000 calls a day.

0:39:070:39:10

Though not all complaints, if a delivery HAS gone astray,

0:39:100:39:14

they're certain to hear about it.

0:39:140:39:16

It is easier to be horrible to someone over the phone

0:39:230:39:25

than it is face to face.

0:39:250:39:26

But what I say to my agents

0:39:260:39:27

is it's harder to be horrible to someone that's nice on the phone

0:39:270:39:30

so smile whilst you're talking.

0:39:300:39:32

No, no.

0:39:320:39:34

Listen to what they're saying, and often when they're shouting

0:39:340:39:37

they'll say it, and if you allow them to say it

0:39:370:39:39

they'll run out of energy and then they're willing to listen.

0:39:390:39:42

Mm.

0:39:420:39:43

How far can people go?

0:39:460:39:47

People have wished cancer upon myself and other agents.

0:39:470:39:50

They've wished death on family members.

0:39:500:39:52

We've had bomb threats.

0:39:520:39:54

We get it all.

0:39:540:39:55

He called me a monkey and then called me an ape

0:39:550:39:57

and that I should go back to my zoo.

0:39:570:40:00

And I found that quite offensive.

0:40:000:40:02

You get some people that are abusive towards women.

0:40:020:40:05

We've had homophobic abuse. We've had racial abuse.

0:40:050:40:07

At the end of the day, it is a parcel that we're delivering

0:40:070:40:10

but some people take it too far.

0:40:100:40:12

'This is the end of a catalogue of cockups.'

0:40:120:40:15

'Well, I'm glad it is being recorded, actually!'

0:40:150:40:17

PHONE RINGS

0:40:170:40:18

There's no-one that you can speak to in the call centre

0:40:200:40:23

who is higher than myself.

0:40:230:40:25

What's the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

0:40:250:40:27

Er...they wished that my unborn child dies.

0:40:270:40:30

Yeah...

0:40:310:40:33

-Were you shocked?

-Um...

0:40:340:40:37

At the time, yes.

0:40:370:40:38

I look back now and I just think that's ridiculous.

0:40:380:40:41

But, yeah, for someone to be that vile

0:40:410:40:43

about just a delivery that they'd ordered, then yeah,

0:40:430:40:46

that was extreme.

0:40:460:40:49

I used to take it personally and now I think it's part of my job.

0:40:490:40:52

I'm not going to ever bump into them, they don't know who I am, so...

0:40:520:40:55

I don't think they mean it directly at me

0:40:550:40:57

but I am the voice of City Link

0:40:570:40:59

so I just have to take it and get on with it.

0:40:590:41:01

When customer patience runs thin,

0:41:090:41:12

it's not just the voice of the company that bears the brunt of it

0:41:120:41:16

but also the face.

0:41:160:41:18

Thankfully for the delivery men,

0:41:210:41:23

there is an incentive.

0:41:230:41:25

We get paid per stop,

0:41:300:41:32

so every time I stop we get a payment for it.

0:41:320:41:36

So if I've got, like, 140 stops a day,

0:41:360:41:40

you can make serious money out of it.

0:41:400:41:43

Well, you're talking footballers' wages, basically!

0:41:470:41:50

I wouldn't say Premiership,

0:41:500:41:51

obviously they're in a different league!

0:41:510:41:54

Yeah, yesterday I delivered to number 11, which is next door,

0:41:560:42:00

and number 15, which is there,

0:42:000:42:01

and today I've got number 12.

0:42:010:42:04

The more you deliver, the more you get paid.

0:42:040:42:06

So probably tomorrow I might have 14 and 16!

0:42:060:42:09

If you can do 200 deliveries, like I do in Christmas,

0:42:090:42:13

you're going to... You're on serious money, you know what I mean?

0:42:130:42:16

They see us delivery drivers like, obviously,

0:42:160:42:19

thinking it's a minimum wage sort of thing

0:42:190:42:21

but it's not.

0:42:210:42:22

It's nice to have something nice to get into at the end of the day.

0:42:490:42:52

It's a perk, isn't it?!

0:42:520:42:54

Why did you decide to buy yourself this?

0:42:540:42:56

Well, I had the opportunity to get one.

0:42:560:42:58

I'd been looking for a while.

0:42:580:42:59

And I've always had nice cars,

0:42:590:43:00

and this came up and I had to have it.

0:43:000:43:02

So I went and bought it!

0:43:020:43:04

But, yeah, best thing I've bought.

0:43:050:43:07

Are some people quite surprised

0:43:070:43:09

when you say you're a delivery driver?

0:43:090:43:11

Yeah, but it's the old saying, isn't it?

0:43:110:43:13

You never judge a book by its cover.

0:43:130:43:15

You know, they see me in the van driving around, delivering,

0:43:150:43:18

you know, grubby clothing and all, from working.

0:43:180:43:21

And then all of a sudden they'll see me drive up in this

0:43:210:43:24

and they're very shocked, like, "How could you do that?"

0:43:240:43:27

It's hard work, like. I've done it for 20 years.

0:43:270:43:30

I managed to save and get one of these

0:43:300:43:32

and I'm happy with it.

0:43:320:43:34

For some of us, the rise of online shopping has opened the door

0:43:370:43:41

to worlds that we may otherwise have never ventured into.

0:43:410:43:44

For the last 20 years,

0:43:550:43:57

Roberson Wine has operated

0:43:570:43:59

from a shop on one of London's most exclusive streets,

0:43:590:44:03

selling wine worth up to £3,500 a bottle.

0:44:030:44:07

My office is a reflection of my life.

0:44:230:44:26

I bought that at an art fair but it's great.

0:44:260:44:28

The expression is fantastic on his face.

0:44:280:44:30

And he's doing pretty well at cards, as you can see.

0:44:300:44:34

I like this one, too. I like the nail varnish.

0:44:340:44:36

And this is a head I bought that some people don't like.

0:44:360:44:40

The trouble is that the teeth and the eyes look pretty real.

0:44:400:44:43

This is my mouthpiece if I...if I need people!

0:44:430:44:46

And here it is, "His master's voice."

0:44:460:44:49

Ooh! Bang bang.

0:44:500:44:52

Cliff Roberson has done well on the profits from the shop.

0:44:520:44:56

But business has really boomed since his company expanded online.

0:44:560:45:00

I'm just looking at your desk.

0:45:020:45:03

Where's the technology on your desk?

0:45:030:45:05

Uh - you caught me out!

0:45:080:45:10

Erm...I don't have any.

0:45:100:45:12

I'm very low-tech.

0:45:130:45:15

I am an old-fashioned guy in that sense.

0:45:150:45:17

How can you function without e-mail and a computer on your desk?

0:45:170:45:21

Well, I have Jacquie.

0:45:210:45:23

So Jacquie does all of my e-mails in and out,

0:45:230:45:26

all of that particular side of my business.

0:45:260:45:29

-Do you ever touch a computer at all?

-No.

0:45:290:45:32

-So iPads, all that kind of thing?

-Nothing.

0:45:320:45:36

I have to confess, I've never even sent a text.

0:45:360:45:39

So...

0:45:430:45:45

Here we are, where all our stock is held.

0:45:450:45:49

This is all fine Bordeaux, here.

0:45:490:45:51

Gruner Veltliner from Austria.

0:45:510:45:52

Corison from California.

0:45:520:45:54

Minuty from the South of France.

0:45:540:45:58

Wines from Chile.

0:45:580:45:59

We're holding here about 10,000 to 12,000 cases,

0:45:590:46:02

in this warehouse.

0:46:020:46:04

How much do you reckon it's all worth?

0:46:040:46:06

I really don't know. I would guess...

0:46:080:46:10

..2.5 million.

0:46:120:46:14

Historically it was a fairly upper-class business,

0:46:150:46:20

supplying wines to fairly maybe upper-class customers.

0:46:200:46:24

This has changed now.

0:46:240:46:26

It's so broad that everybody drinks wine, from...

0:46:260:46:30

It's...you know, the common tipple, to a certain extent.

0:46:300:46:34

In the last eight years,

0:46:370:46:39

online wine sales have grown nearly 500%.

0:46:390:46:43

And in Essex,

0:46:470:46:48

Tony and Simone Holland are recent converts.

0:46:480:46:52

Some of the finer wines actually are not as expensive as you think.

0:46:550:46:58

Don't get me wrong, some of them cost quite a lot.

0:46:580:47:01

But some of the real nice ones... they're not that expensive.

0:47:010:47:07

DOORBELL PLAYS THE FOUR SEASONS

0:47:070:47:10

-Morning.

-Hello, mate, are you all right?

0:47:120:47:14

-Is it your wine?

-Wine's arrived.

0:47:150:47:19

-Packaged quite well.

-I know.

0:47:190:47:21

It is good, cos they put them in them sleeves, don't they,

0:47:210:47:23

the bubble wrap sleeves.

0:47:230:47:25

Nice. They do package them good, don't they?

0:47:290:47:31

-Go on. Do you want me to move this?

-Yeah.

0:47:310:47:33

-It's like a lilo, isn't it?

-Shall I get this one out as well?

0:47:350:47:37

No, shall we leave that one for the minute and do this?

0:47:370:47:40

Oh, it is a different one, so we haven't tried that yet.

0:47:400:47:43

Yeah, we've not tried this one but it is a Shiraz.

0:47:430:47:46

We've come to realise that we like Shiraz,

0:47:460:47:48

but we didn't know that at first, did we?

0:47:480:47:50

It was only after we'd got a few and thought, "Oh, that's nice."

0:47:500:47:53

And then you looked up, didn't you,

0:47:530:47:55

and had a look at the ones you had bought.

0:47:550:47:57

It's only dawned on me as we started reading the labels

0:47:570:48:00

it was all Shiraz, so we've got no...

0:48:000:48:02

-But you didn't used to like wine.

-No.

0:48:020:48:04

You never used to like wine, you used to drink beer.

0:48:040:48:06

I mean, it's only, literally, since our wedding

0:48:060:48:09

that you've got into wines.

0:48:090:48:11

I mean, you don't really like whites or roses, do you?

0:48:110:48:14

You are more red.

0:48:140:48:15

Tony and Simone both work in the finance industry,

0:48:160:48:20

and have been married for three years.

0:48:200:48:23

We got married at the Ritz, up in London.

0:48:230:48:26

And we had a sommelier pick wines

0:48:260:48:30

that would accompany our dish and canapes.

0:48:300:48:32

And we went along, didn't we, had a try,

0:48:320:48:34

picked what one we wanted and that's how you got into wines.

0:48:340:48:38

Because Tony, as we say, was always a beer drinker if we went out.

0:48:380:48:42

After that he was like, "Cor, that was amazing," and the sommelier guy

0:48:420:48:46

explained it all, where it came from.

0:48:460:48:48

And then I don't know what happened, but even on the day

0:48:480:48:51

people say, "Were you nervous on your wedding...?" I wasn't.

0:48:510:48:54

I knew I was getting married, that was it.

0:48:540:48:56

I remember sitting there drinking red wine, and we had a few glasses that day,

0:48:560:49:01

but I had the clearest head in the world. And I was like, "Wow! Can that happen?"

0:49:010:49:04

I thought, "I've got to get this wine," and I looked through a couple of websites

0:49:060:49:10

and I remember thinking, "That's hard work, it'd be easier to go in me car and drive somewhere,"

0:49:100:49:16

and then I went onto the Roberson one and found this wine.

0:49:160:49:19

I saw the postcode and it was SW, I thought, they've got their shops in Kensington High Street,

0:49:190:49:23

"That's quite posh." And I thought, "Oh, I'm buying wine from there and perhaps I shouldn't be,"

0:49:230:49:30

and I thought, "Hold on, it's quite reasonable." So I'd never have known.

0:49:300:49:34

Do you think we're getting to a more cultured, French style of drinking?

0:49:340:49:39

No, I don't think that.

0:49:390:49:41

I don't think we're like the French, no!

0:49:410:49:43

Maybe years ago you had to go to a nice restaurant to

0:49:430:49:46

get a nice bottle of wine, I don't know. Maybe. But you don't now, do you? We're proving that today.

0:49:460:49:50

I think it's more elegant having a glass of wine, you know?

0:49:520:49:56

Yeah, you wouldn't get ten rugby players standing round drinking wine, would you?

0:49:560:50:00

-So you're right, perhaps it's more...

-Classier, maybe?

0:50:000:50:03

-Yeah.

-I think it's classier, yeah.

0:50:030:50:06

Yeah. It doesn't matter where you're from, you can

0:50:060:50:08

-have a bit of class, can't you?

-Yeah.

0:50:080:50:10

In Coventry, it's a very special day.

0:50:260:50:29

Deano. Got a knife?

0:50:310:50:33

Give us a knife.

0:50:360:50:37

Cheers, mate.

0:50:400:50:42

The multi-million pound sorting machine is glitch-free and about to

0:50:420:50:46

be launched, fuelling the company's hopes for a return to profit and a

0:50:460:50:50

brighter future.

0:50:500:50:53

MUSIC: Fruhlingsstimmen by Strauss

0:50:530:50:55

Puts a smile on everyone's face.

0:51:010:51:04

It should see us through

0:51:040:51:06

the future, and if it works we'll get another one in and get more freight

0:51:060:51:09

and bigger customers in.

0:51:090:51:12

That looks great, yeah, absolutely. That looks fantastic.

0:51:140:51:18

As the mastermind of the entire project,

0:51:180:51:22

the last few weeks have been stressful ones for Bob.

0:51:220:51:26

So we are ten days behind where we wanted to be, but that has allowed us

0:51:260:51:31

to do some further testing.

0:51:310:51:33

So we're pretty tested out, to be honest with you.

0:51:330:51:37

There's a small group of us

0:51:370:51:39

that have been working a horrendous amount of hours over the last two or three weeks.

0:51:390:51:43

So you can see our freight ready to go onto the sorter this morning.

0:51:460:51:50

The sun's shining, the balloons are up - it's looking good.

0:51:550:52:00

With the machine about to go live,

0:52:030:52:06

Bob's invited the whole company to witness the fruits of his labour.

0:52:060:52:10

You all right? Five minutes, yeah?

0:52:100:52:13

Top man. Mikey...!

0:52:130:52:15

Two minutes, two minutes down here.

0:52:170:52:20

Get the team over.

0:52:230:52:25

We need 'em over here.

0:52:250:52:26

Get all the team over, two minutes.

0:52:260:52:28

I don't want them to miss this, yeah?

0:52:280:52:31

Top man, thank you.

0:52:310:52:33

Bob's boss has the honour of officially launching the machine.

0:52:380:52:42

Morning, everyone.

0:52:430:52:45

Today is a tremendous day for the business.

0:52:450:52:48

A year on from when we started to develop the idea

0:52:480:52:52

that Bob came to me with,

0:52:520:52:54

and after six months of testing and trialling,

0:52:540:52:57

we've finally come to the big day where

0:52:570:52:59

City Link can be proud to say

0:52:590:53:02

that it now has sortation equipment

0:53:020:53:04

in its main hub.

0:53:040:53:05

So, without further ado,

0:53:050:53:07

I'd just like to say thank you, everyone, enjoy the new piece of kit and good luck with it!

0:53:070:53:13

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:53:130:53:14

Faster!

0:53:200:53:22

HE LAUGHS

0:53:220:53:24

I feel shattered.

0:53:330:53:34

HE LAUGHS

0:53:340:53:36

Bob, I just wanted to say congratulations,

0:53:440:53:47

this is an amazing day for the business and for you personally,

0:53:470:53:50

-a triumph, a real triumph.

-Thank you.

0:53:500:53:52

It's a proud day for me.

0:53:570:54:00

Are you having a pint tonight or something?

0:54:000:54:04

I'll have a rest, to be quite honest with you.

0:54:040:54:07

There is a sense of relief that the lights have come on

0:54:070:54:10

and it's started to sort parcels.

0:54:100:54:12

I'm not going to have a pint to celebrate tonight.

0:54:120:54:15

I might have eight hours' sleep.

0:54:150:54:17

Stood in front of all of the night shift, and I said, I need

0:54:260:54:29

to be here one day looking in the whites of your eyes and say,

0:54:290:54:33

"Bloody hell, it's been tough and on occasions it's not been pleasant,

0:54:330:54:39

"but look where we are now."

0:54:390:54:41

Good evening, Happy Christmas,

0:54:510:54:53

and welcome to BBC News.

0:54:530:54:55

In the past hour we've been hearing the parcel delivery company

0:54:550:54:58

City Link, which employs more than 2,500 people,

0:54:580:55:00

has gone into administration.

0:55:000:55:02

I ask myself all the time, you know, how could a company,

0:55:020:55:07

a multi-million pound company, just close in a day?

0:55:070:55:12

They got the Christmas deliveries out of the way, thank you

0:55:120:55:16

very much, that's the end of your job, and 14 years,

0:55:160:55:20

which I've put in there,

0:55:200:55:23

I thought, "Thank you very much, it's the best Christmas present I've ever had(!)"

0:55:230:55:26

Especially to find out off the news on Christmas Day that I was being

0:55:260:55:32

made redundant, and I just find that very, very hard.

0:55:320:55:38

So people who invest in business obviously want

0:55:390:55:42

to see a return on their investment.

0:55:420:55:45

Our owners were obviously not convinced

0:55:450:55:50

that that was either going to happen, or happening quick enough,

0:55:500:55:55

and clearly that would have been the reason that they decided

0:55:550:56:01

not to invest any further money into the business.

0:56:010:56:04

We were expecting a bumper payday, cos Christmas is the time of year

0:56:040:56:09

when you go out and earn the money, you go out and

0:56:090:56:14

slog your guts out and earn the money.

0:56:140:56:17

But I'm owed almost £6,000. I mean, it's just a hammer blow.

0:56:170:56:21

We spoke to the administrators, they wouldn't come down

0:56:220:56:25

to tell the City Link staff, right.

0:56:250:56:28

We had a word,

0:56:280:56:31

and he said you'd be lucky to see a penny in every pound.

0:56:310:56:36

And that was his words - "lucky to see a penny in every pound."

0:56:360:56:41

I was angry, I was emotional. I was no different than anyone else

0:56:430:56:46

who heard the news on Christmas Day.

0:56:460:56:50

There's dust on the sorter, there's no parcels left any more.

0:56:500:56:55

It's a warehouse with a big piece of red kit in there, and some empty cages.

0:56:550:57:00

The parcel industry is competitive,

0:57:000:57:02

and gets more competitive as each week passes by.

0:57:020:57:06

Everyone needs to be on top of their game, on top of their strategy,

0:57:060:57:10

think about the future demands of the customers, and how they can react to that quickly.

0:57:100:57:15

There's enough parcels out there to support the parcel industry -

0:57:150:57:18

let's just hope there's not another City Link around the corner.

0:57:180:57:21

In 2014, courier company City Link went into administration. Filmed in the summer of that year, this tells the story of how the company tried to survive in the high-stakes world of overnight deliveries.


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