The volume of UK parcels sent by consumers to alternative collection points looks set to double over the next five years, according to parcel shipping management specialists GFS.
The company says the current proportion of packages going to parcel locker terminals or parcel shops instead of direct to households is currently just 3% in the UK.
But while the current number might seem low, GFS hinted that the rise of alternative collection points could explode in the same way that Internet shopping has boomed in the last six years.
The company based in West Sussex said it had seen information from retailers and parcel carriers suggesting that there is likely to be a “significant” increase in demand for more flexible delivery options.
GFS director Simon Veale said as more alternative collection infrastructure is established within the UK, and awareness about alternative collection options improves among consumers, he expected one in 20 consumer parcels going to alternative collection points by 2016.
“On the basis of the figures which we have seen and the information which we have obtained from retailers and the carriers which serve them, we are talking about nothing short of a major cultural shift in how parcels are delivered in the UK,” he said.
Veale said that ecommerce had had a “tremendous impact” on the way people shop in the UK and the rest of the world, and on the volume of parcels being shipped, adding that new convenient forms of collection were set to bring similar transformations in shopping habits.
“The convenience of being able to shop where, when and how we like has led to a desire for similar flexibility in the way we receive the goods we buy online. That, in turn, has prompted both retailers and delivery firms to come up with a range of new ways to satisfy customer demands,” said the GFS director.
Analysis by GFS of figures from last Christmas suggested that ecommerce package volumes in the UK grew by about 15% during November and December 2011, compared to the same period in 2010.
The company, which has about 5m parcels shipped through its system each year, believes the proportional increase in consumers choosing to have items delivered through an alternative delivery system could be even more pronounced than the volume growth.
The change is not necessarily bad news for parcel carriers, Veale said, with no signs that parcel volume increases will slacken off.
“Any changes in how goods are delivered is merely likely to result in displacement of resources from one part of their operations to the other,” he said.
Royal Mail has offered a Poste Restante service for some time, allowing people to use a post office branch as a collection address for a limited time if in the process of moving, but GFS suggested it hasn’t been widely used as public awareness was low.
Veale said while awareness of alternative collection options may grow among the public, in his opinion ecommerce will prompt people to seek out delivery options to fit their lifestyles.
“In my opinion, the uptake of alternative delivery methods in the UK is likely to mirror the way Germany got used to the Packstation system introduced by Deutsche Post,” he said. “Mass adoption didn’t happen overnight, but is now a well-established and well-accepted part of how people send and receive parcels there.”