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Pickup CEO on Delivering Luxury in the Last Mile

One company is seeing big potential in luxury with the customer service battle increasingly fought in the last mile.

Dallas-based on-demand delivery provider Pickup is helping brands looking to extend white glove service from the boutique to customers’ doors as it sees a large runway for growth in handling the final mile for high-value goods.

“It’s hand to hand in those cases. It’s not even door or room of choice; it’s the deliverer is handling those goods directly,” Pickup CEO Brian Kava said of white-glove service in the age of e-commerce.

Pickup’s made a name for itself since its 2014 founding, focusing on the delivery of big and bulky items after founder Brenda Stoner faced the tough task of figuring out how to get outdoor furniture bought from Costco back home. Pickup now counts more than 90 cities in its service area and touts an on-time performance percentage in the range of 85 to 90.

The company’s network of delivery drivers uses its digital platform to source jobs and currently counts about 1,200 drivers. About 700 of those drivers have a regular order schedule they handle.

About a year ago, Pickup expanded into the high-value goods segment, offering white-glove service Kava said has become a fast mover for the business.

“It’s really become a high-growth segment,” said Kava, who was tapped for the top spot at the company in February after serving as Pickup’s head of sales and marketing.

Pickup has been offering high-value delivery service in purses, working with a manufacturer Kava said is now in talks of expanding into apparel through the same delivery experience.

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The CEO was unable to disclose the name of the manufacturer, due to a non-disclosure agreement, but described the company as operating in luxury bags and leather goods. The talks for expanding into apparel would be for one of the company’s sister brands within the parent company’s portfolio.

The service is currently in two markets, with talks of adding five or six over the next quarter.

“It’s really getting some steam. It’s a different customer set of those products and, candidly, I’d share it’s something that recessions, COVID circumstances don’t impact those customers,” Kava said.

These are deliveries that include custom gift wrap, rather than dented cardboard boxes, and black sedans instead of the typical delivery van.

“For the economics to work, it certainly has to be at a particular dollar value,” Kava said of when on-demand delivery makes sense for fashion. “It’s something where if you’re spending $10,000 on a purse, or if you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on different luxury apparel, then you’re not as concerned. It’s not always a cost pass to the customer, but it’s a matter of, from the manufacturer, they’re looking at what ensures the greatest satisfaction of that customer experience.”

While luxury represents a unique specialization in how the delivery experience is handled, Pickup’s always focused on pitching its delivery as an extension of a retailer or manufacturer’s brand. That means not driving a delivery vehicle over a customer’s lawn, dropping a half-torn box at the door or scuffing floors in setting a piece of furniture down in a room.

As online ordering rises, expectations around service and delivery reliability will only grow, Kava pointed out.

“Where [companies] are missing it is that’s the very last impression of the brand,” Kava said. “If that is buttoned up, considerate of what’s being delivered, then ultimately that’s going to impact that customer as a long-term customer.”

Pickup raised a $15 million Series B last March, which was led by NewRoad Capital Partners, and Kava estimated a Series C could be on the horizon for early 2023 that will help with further geographic expansion, including international and potential acquisitions, as more companies focus on what branding looks like in the last mile.

“The people that are going to continue to be successful are going to have to be customer obsessed,” said Kava, adding, “At that final destination, what’s that experience?”