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Knutsford Express moves into delivery services amid shuttle fallout

Published:Sunday | October 18, 2020 | 12:12 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter
Oliver Townsend, CEO of Knutsford Express Services Limited.
Oliver Townsend, CEO of Knutsford Express Services Limited.

Luxury bus company Knutsford Express Services Limited, KEX, is deepening its investments in the courier side of its business to make up for revenue that would normally come from commuters.

The outbreak of COVID-19, and the restrictions put in place to contain the disease’s spread, has seen a reduction in people movement; and the changes in travel behaviour have been dramatic for Knutsford. First-quarter revenue plummeted 62.5 per cent year on year, from $324 million to to $121 million, because of a reduction in the frequency of trips.

The diminished fares resulted in the company posting losses of $25.1 million, making the June-August 2020 period the worst quarter in its history.

But CEO Oliver Townsend is optimistic that revenue performance for the upcoming quarter will begin to rebound from more efficient use of bus terminals, improvements in its automated customer service platform, as well as steps being taken to grow the package delivery side of the operation.

So far, Knutsford Express has implemented several initiatives, including adding additional counters and widening the floor space to deal with increased demand for courier services at some of its busier locations.

Now, the company is looking to go into delivery services for business customers.

“Wait times will be reduced as business customers with multiple-item shipments have access to preloading their items in our system, prior to arriving at our terminal. In November, entry of these items into our system will trigger an optional pick-up service for these items in the business district for a small additional cost, obviating the need to come to us,” Townsend told the Financial Gleaner.

Over the past five years, Knutsford Express has been building its business by improvements to the fleet and venturing into the market in Florida.

Before the pandemic, Knutsford Express’ profit had been trending up, reaching $188 million at year ending May 2019, and expansion plans were being executed. But COVID-19, as well as crime-fighting measures implemented by the Government in different places, even before the pandemic, brought its yearly profit down to $33.6 million at the end of May 2020.

The targets for the expanded courier operation were not immediately disclosed, but while it is putting those plans in place, KEX is also looking to shore up its core market through its online booking platform.

“More inquiries and transactions are being done through our website’s chatbox and mobile app, encouraging us to further invest in improving our automated customer service platform,” Townsend said in a statement to shareholders.

The company, which restarted operation at its new Drax Hall location on June 1, says, despite the ongoing construction activity at the facility, putting it into operation now would result in needed cost savings, both in terms of the eliminated lease payments at the locations the new terminal replaces, as well as time and gas mileage.

Knutsford Express is expected to begin courier operations at the new location before the year ends.