The Popes secret courier

I came across a very interesting article in the Guardian all about the Pope’s own personal courier. His name is Thaddeus Kühneland he does about 150,000 miles a year at the Pope’s beckon call.

Collecting everything from christmas trees and chocolates and special mineral water. Many will moan, saying that quite a few of these items could quite easily have gone via a parcel network minimizing the environmental impact. However, clearly having an extra level of security which a dedicated courier can offer is something which is important for a man of his standing.

Here is the article:

Kühnel drove from the pope’s home state of Bavaria to the Vatican yesterday to personally deliver this year’s boot-load of food, as well as five Christmas trees that were strapped to the roof of his car.

Lebkuchen honey and spice biscuits, stollen German Christmas cake, and chocolate were among the treats, Kühnel told German media. Of the trees, which came from the pope’s home town, Marktl am Inn, Kühnel said: “One is for the Pope’s living room, and two are for private chapels.”

Butchers in Marktl am Inn began selling Ratzinger sausages in his honour when he became pope in 2005.

There was also a present from the pope’s brother, Georg, 84, a retired priest. Kühnel would not reveal what it was, but said “usually they give each other practical things, like wristwatches and electric foot-warmers”.

Kühnel said he had already clocked up around 250,000km 150,000 miles in his car, delivering goods to the pope that he had personally requested, along with presents from his old friends, staff and distant relatives. “I deliver all the things he misses about Bavaria, including fruit nectar, Bavarian sausages from his favourite restaurant, advent wreaths and German sweets. He has a very sweet tooth,” Kühnel said.

“The first thing I brought to Rome, in my car, was a paschal candle, as well as some fruit from Adelholzen and mineral water. He likes the Christmas cookies that women from Bavarian parishes bake at home as well as those made at certain monasteries. He also likes the chocolates made in Aachen.”

The Pope clearly likes his food and Kühnel is keeping him very happy by the looks of things!

CV Show 2009 cancelled

The organisers of the commercial vehicle show have today announced that the 2009 has been cancelled. Issuing this press statement:

The Commercial Vehicle Partnership, comprising the SMMT, RHA and SOE, and the CV Show Committee, made up of the partners and representatives from the commercial vehicle and component sector, agreed today to cancel this year’s CV Show scheduled for 28-30 April at Birmingham’s NEC.

The Partnership recognised in December that the economic downturn creates a difficult environment for vehicle manufacturers to commit to large international exhibitions. Nevertheless, some 290 exhibitors signed up for the Show requiring the Partners to consult widely with them on support for a focussed engineering-based alternative. The results indicate that while some support was forthcoming, it was not enough to retain the credibility that the CV Show has created as a major international event of its type and which the Partners and the Show committee were keen to maintain.

“We have obviously noted that just about every other show in this sector has been cancelled for 2009”, said RHA Chief Executive Roger King. “But the advanced status of ours did not permit us to cancel without careful consultation.

“This was a difficult decision but, on balance, the right one. What we learned from this exercise was that despite a generally negative response to 2009, there appears a much more positive approach to 2010 which encourages the Partnership to set plans in motion for a show in April of that year”.

“This is of course disappointing, but given the current economic climate and the uncertainty created, it is the only decision we could make. Naturally, the Partners are grateful for the NEC’s support for this decision”, said Nigel Emms, the CV Show Committee Chairman. “Future planning for the next Show should be done against the backdrop of the outstanding 2008 event and not a compromise one for 2009.”

Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive added: “2009 will be an extremely challenging year across the motor industry but this decision, while difficult, creates the opportunity to ensure the 2010 event best reflects the changing needs of the road transport industry.”

Finally, Society of Operations Engineers Chief Executive Nick Jones said: “Whilst the cost of cancellation may be considerable, all exhibitors will receive a full refund. We are confident that exhibitors will be ready to sign up when details are announced for the 2010 Show”.

We at Shiply were sorry to hear of the show’s cancellation, as we felt it was the best trade show related the the transport industry that we visited last year.

It is understandable however, for several months we have been hearing that they were struggling to secure exhibitors for this year’s event. We hope things will have turned around by 2010.

I take it none of the exhibitors will be needing to request any tradeshow transportation then?

The Sunday Times – New firms can find an upside to downturn

Shiply were featured in the Sunday Times this weekend just gone in an interesting article within the business section.

The journalist, Andrew Stone, wanted to highlight some new businesses like ourselves that have started up in 2008 with the recession looming. For many, setting up a business now does seem like the worst timing and I would have to agree in many cases. However, it can also be a great time to start up if your idea ticks the right boxes. For me, the most important being that your solution offers value for money or better still saves people money.

I can’t say I agree with the other featured company, Two Chicks (who sell cartoned egg whites), with their statement: “Although ours is a premium product, food is one of the last things people cut back on in a downturn.” I know for a fact that I eat less caviar these days :). However, they certainly seem to have a good product which is already proven overseas so I wish the very best of luck.

It is good to see that despite the downturn, there are still plenty of good opportunities out there.

Shiply in the news

We’ve been delighted with the coverage Shiply has got over the past six months in the press. Both national and trade press have shown a great deal of interest in the Shiply concept and it has really helped us grow our public profile in a short space of time.

The Sunday Times were the first to spot us and wrote a very nice article in their popular hot clicks section.

The Metro ran a larger article on us back in November – “It’s haul in the name of good sense”. The journalist Sophie Freedman, wrote a very informative article which helped consumers understand the current issues facing the haulage industry and how Shiply fits into the picture.

The Guardian also covered Shiply in November, unfortunately it wasn’t the double-spread feature we were expecting but nevertheless it covered the bases. Under the environmental section, this piece was sure to have caught the eye of those of us most concerned with the green issues of today.

On the afternoon of 25th November I got a call from the Radio 2 Chris Evans show saying that they wanted to do an interview. The business journalist Rebecca Pike (who was very down to earth & friendly) gave a fantastic introduction to Shiply highlighting the current problem with empty-running to 5 million+ listeners. The rest of the interview went well and we got a fantastic response on the web site the next day with visits up by more than 200%.

If you’re not out enjoying yourself on Christmas Eve, or busy spending time with family, tune into Radio 4 at 12.04pm for You and Yours where I am interviewed along with the RHA.

Speaking of the RHA, they ran a fantastic piece on us back in July in their Business Survival Toolkit. It was flattering to receive such attention at such an early stage in the business. It was clear that the industry was looking for new alternatives and solutions for maximising efficiency and Editor Peter Shakespeare seemed impressed with the concept.

We have also been featured in other trade press including, Motor Transport, The British Association of Removers, The Institute of the Motor Industry & Transport News Network amongst others.

I personally have been very pleased with the level of recognition we have received across both national and trade press. We have all worked really hard here at Shiply to make it the success it deserves to be. By gaining such exposure it allows people to see the opportunities here and make good use of the service. We hope that 2009 will bring more coverage and bring Shiply further into the spotlight as the UK’s online transport marketplace.

Levels of haulage firm failures at record high

We all know that times are tough and that the haulage industry has had a particularly bad year, what with the fuel crisis and the spiralling economic downturn. To further dampen spirits, research by Motor Transport has revealed a shocking £82m of revenue has been lost within the industry as a result of company collapses. Most notably Amtrak with £35m and Innovate Group with £19m.

I remember when we were first launching back in May and the statistics were showing us that 13.6% of haulage firms went out of business in 2007. As if this wasn’t bad enough, October and November has seen far worse levels of company failures. In fact, there has been a 47.2% increase compared with the same period last year.

So, now more than ever, it is so vital for haulage companies to keep their efficiency levels high. Obviously that is across all levels of their business but keeping their vehicles full and reducing the number of wasted trips is something with is key to success and indeed sadly for some, survival. Something which I’m proud to say Shiply is committed to helping with.

Communication just got easier on Shiply

Following user feedback, we have redesigned the section where you can ask a service provider a question about a bid. In the past you had to click to open a pop-up (which probably got blocked by your browser) and then click again within that pop-up to finally type in your message and click send.

We understand, that was tedious and also restrictive. We wanted to make sure that everyone was able to communicate quickly and above all easily with each other. So now, all that you need to do is click on the green button of the bid in question and the bid details and any previous correspondence is displayed with no need for pop-ups or page reloads.

Then, it is simply a case of typing your message into the box and hitting “post”. We hope this new functionality will further improve the user experience here at Shiply and we gladly welcome any comments/constructive criticism.

Most Interesting Items on Shiply 2008

We do like to have a good chuckle in the Shiply office when we see some of the stranger and more unusual shipments go live. So with the Christmas period descending, instead of cracking jokes which only the cracker people could be proud of, we’ve decided to share some our favourites with you.

Kaka the bearded dragon – clearly looking to move to warmer climates was trying to get from Carnoustie down to the New Forest in Hampshire. Although, the lister (tiesto08) could not get a good photo of Kaka over to us, here is a “visual representation” of what we reckon he looks like!

Someone was planning what looks like an amazing party back in October when “alcohol for 400 people” was listed to move from Loanhead, Midlothian to Anstruther, Fife. All I have to say is, where was our invite?!

So, clearly, the old saying that a pigeon never forgets his way home is nothing more than a wives tale. One “live pigeon” (I would be more concerned if it was dead) got lost and put himself on Shiply to get himself back to Pinebrook in Suffolk. The question left by a service provider “Can I fly the bird down?”, I must admit did make me laugh.

Mistress, please! I feel sorry for the poor recipient of this bondage bench which was being sent from Falkirk to Middlesbrough. What concerned me the most is the cat bowls inside the contraption! Well, whatever floats your boat I suppose!

We know that times are tough, but this user tried to actually ship himself! He was looking for a lift up to York from Worcester. Clearly, he was just looking for a cheaper alternative to the train. Unfortunately we did have to pull this one as it’s not an area the marketplace is trying to push. But, I know there are a lot lift sharing web sites out there so the concept itself is an interesting one. Spare capacity on trains Mr Branson?