Italy, Germany become favourite markets for online shoppers | Johann Vella

10 years ago, Express Trailers launched its service to assist local online shoppers have their purchases delivered straight to their door. JOHANN VELLA, Director & Head of General Management & Quality Assurance at Express Trailers recalls the market’s reaction when the service was first launched in 2012 and how the customer base has been growing exponentially year on year ever since


What has the uptake been like over the past years?

The service was an immediate hit because we were the first to offer a service that appealed directly to online shoppers. We saw a niche because customers were finding items online but then, were limited to what they could order because of size and weight constraints. Today we service thousands of customers every year, some of which have been with us from the very beginning. We even have individuals who started their business from using and today have become successful importers and exporters who keep using our service. This project is a huge achievement for me personally and for the company especially due to the constant positive feedback we receive from our clients.

How does operate? started off as an import service utilising four main depots on mainland Europe. As the service proved popular, we introduced more depots and today, it is operated through 8 distinct depots namely in Austria, France, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, UK and Sicily thus covering the most sought-after markets in Europe. Customers instruct their suppliers located in these other European countries to send their goods to these depots and from there, our logistics chain brings the goods to Malta where they are sorted and delivered in every corner of Malta and Gozo.

Which are the most popular hubs and what would be the reasons for this?

Most clients have always been very comfortable importing goods from the UK however Brexit changed everything because it made importing goods from the UK more expensive and complicated. Notwithstanding this, we still retained the service for online shoppers who still shop from the UK, but we have noticed users shifting their buying habits. I would say that today, Italy and Germany have become the most popular hubs amongst our clients.

What would you say have remained SLC’s best advantages over its competition?

I believe the biggest advantage of SLC lies in the huge convenience offered by our online portal which we kept developing and making sure it is easy to use. Clients can receive a quote within seconds, book orders, and track their shipments, without the need of making any calls, sending any emails, or chasing people. Obviously, another huge advantage is the fact that the SLC service rides on the robustness and reliability of Express Trailers service offer. This allows us to offer a service which is unmatched in quality.

What would be some typical items being shipped with SLC? Any unusual items?

The items we ship to Malta via SLC are as diverse as the online shopping community we service. It would be futile delving into a list of the items we have delivered over the years, but items have ranged from Christmas trees and antique pieces of furniture to car lifts and gym rigs. We have even transported a bumping car! Bottom line is that the items we carry, vary in size, from small Amazon packs weighing a few kilos to industrial pallets and wooden crates that sometimes can reach 1500kgs! This has been our strongest point from day one and which has shaped our trademark of ‘No Size and Weight Limitations!’

Have you noticed any shifts in the way people order online over the years?

When the service was originally created ten years ago, it was mainly intended as a B2C service. Over the years, however, SLC became extremely popular amongst small and medium-sized businesses because it also made it easy, efficient and cost-effective for certain businesses to extend their range of suppliers and products without the need to order in large volumes.

How do you monitor the service from potential abuse or criminal activity?

As of last year, SLC began operating from the Customs Bonded area in Ħal Far. SLC and Express Trailers have developed a very strong working relationship with Malta Customs, to the extent that an MOU was signed between both parties and any suspicious packages received are immediately flagged to Malta Customs, for them to carry out any necessary checks. Our service is safe and above board.

Are there plans to grow the service more? Any new hubs being planned?

Our winning formula has always been that of understanding the needs of the market and providing the right solutions to facilitate the lives of those using our services. The current hubs already cover the main markets in Europe from where 97% of our customers source their products. This is an unrivalled service offering, coupled with the best shipping prices on the islands making the number one choice for B2C and B2B online shoppers. Having said that, we aim to keep strengthening the service by making sure it remains seamless and efficient.

A few years ago, you introduced for export. How is this service going?

The export service was a natural evolution for It has become popular, and its use has been increasing on a weekly basis mostly for sending goods sold online to buyers residing abroad, for sending items to relatives living abroad, for the return of online purchases and for sending items for repair to manufacturers. The advantage of our export service is that it is not only limited to our 8 European depots but extends to destinations across almost the whole world.

Given the recent spikes in the cost of transport and logistics, how has SLC responded and remained viable?

At SLC, we have continued improving the efficiency of our service, such that we have been able to absorb most of the increased cost of transport, and only raised prices very marginally.

With the busy Christmas season round the corner, how is SLC gearing up for the demand?

The Christmas season always brings additional pressures on logistics companies like ours, however being part of the Express Group, we are never scarce in resources, be it equipment or human power. As our loyal customers have experienced throughout the past decade, irrespective of any volumes that will come our way during this festive season, we always stick with our promise to deliver on time, every time. Beyond the busy festive season, our team at ShipLowCost remains motivated to push further into the next decade driven by a commitment to keep making our service increasingly accessible and more user-friendly.

More in Business