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At the end of each year, I like to take stock of the major freight transportation stories of the past twelve months and look ahead to the trends that will drive the industry in the coming year.  The two blogs that I write are prepared from my perspective as a consultant to shippers and carriers.

This year I would like to hear from you.  Those of you who follow this blog observe trends in your segment of the industry.  Please take a minute to share them with me.  Please post them on this blog or send a private e mail to

Please feel free to select any major trend or trends that are having or will have a major impact on our industry, whether regulatory, economic, technological, demographic, consumer behavior, environmental, modal shifts or business strategy.

To broaden the range of inputs and perspectives, I will also post this request on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  In the coming weeks I will be preparing my two lists.  The lists will include a blend of my observations and yours.  Look for these two blogs in mid-December.  Thank you to those of you who take the time to share your observations with me.


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Canada is going through some dramatic evolutions and revolutions in the world of retailing and in retail distribution.  The changes are very evident every time I visit or drive by my local shopping mall, the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto.

The mall has gone through another major expansion.  Microsoft and Apple have stores a few feet apart.  The number of American chains (e.g. Victoria’s Secret, William Sonoma) continues to expand.  Some high end chains (e.g. Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen), that have been in the mall for decades, are in the process of major expansions.  The upstairs food court has been totally transformed and upgraded.  In addition to the old standbys, (e.g. Chinese, Thai, Greek food), one can now buy lobster grilled cheese sandwiches, high quality Indian food and a host of new treats at the mall. 

So what is going on out there?  There are a number of discernible trends taking place that will have a direct impact on freight transportation in Canada. 

Mergers and Acquisitions

Loblaw’s is in the process of buying Shopper’s Drug Mart, Sobey’s has bought Canada Safeway and Hudson’s Bay Company is buying Saks Fifth Avenue.  This will certainly lead to warehouse rationalization, the cross-selling of specific items (e.g. President’s Choice Products) in Shopper’s Drug Mart stores, carrier consolidation and a host of other transportation related changes.

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Freight Transportation Adjusts to a Resetting World Economy

The year 2011 was another momentous one that was shaped by events on all continents of the world.  Uprisings in the Middle East and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gadhafi, the European debt crisis, the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, and the premature passing of Steve Jobs were just a few of the signature events of another action-packed year. 

Closer to home, the three countries in North America all faced significant challenges.  The powerful drug cartels in Mexico are threatening its very existence as a democracy as the country gears up for elections in 2012.  The untimely death of Jack Layton, the very popular leader of the New Democratic party and the demise of Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party have given Steven Harper a majority government and a free hand at steering the Canadian economy over the next four years.  The U.S. situation is exactly the opposite as Democrats and Republicans cannot reach agreement on almost anything and as a result the country is in gridlock on most economic initiatives to spark its economy. 

Against a background of 8.6 percent unemployment in the U.S., millions more underemployed, one in four homes is worth less than the value of the mortgage, tight credit, anxiety over job security and a possible relapse into another recession, the economy is resetting.  Americans are saving more.  As various generations of families live together to better withstand the current economic uncertainties, home builders are erecting homes with two master bedrooms to address the social consequences of these challenging times.   Smartphones, tablets and the internet are reshaping so many of our day to day activities.  The economies of North America and around the world are being reset by this confluence of forces and by the rise of China and other developing nations around the world.

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