Polish parcel locker manufacturer InPost has begun installing its machines in the UK, with a goal of deploying a network of 2,000 units by the end of this year.
The company which has a EUR 300m plan to establish a network of 16,000 automated self-service parcel terminals in Europe over the next few years, told Post&Parcel yesterday that it has already installed about 100 machines in the UK as of this month.
The InPost machines, branded “EasyPack” in some European countries, and “Parcel Motel” in Ireland, comprise a bank of around 80 self-service lockers and a central touchscreen display, offering parcel collection 24 hours a day. Online shoppers who cannot be at home during the working day to receive their parcels opt to have them delivered to a local parcel terminal, and are emailed or texted with a code to open their parcel locker, via the touchscreen display, when their parcel is delivered.
With a local sales team based in Milton Keynes, InPost intends to use a different model to operate the network than it has used in other European markets.
Instead of partnering with a single parcel carrier to manage and deliver to the network of parcel terminals, InPost will be running the UK network itself – offering multiple carriers access to deposit parcels in the lockers.
Karol Milewski, InPost’s business development managing director, who is leading the UK expansion, said the parcel terminals will be branded as InPost, and open to different carriers to use.
But he suggested his company was looking at a model where it contracts directly with e-commerce merchants to offer the addition of the parcel terminal delivery channel, taking responsibility for the parcels from the moment they leave the merchant’s premises, and contracting out the transport work to partner parcel carriers.
InPost is already talking to two or three interested carriers, it said yesterday, along with various e-commerce merchants.
“We are talking to some big clients about signing up, and we are close with a couple of them, but we’re talking to both e-commerce companies and carriers. This model will be different than our other markets, as it will be open to different carriers,” said Milewski.
Milewski, who joined InPost last year after working for PayPal and being one of the founders of the Groupon ecommerce website in Poland, explained that the reason for InPost’s change in strategy for the UK was that the country was expected to be InPost’s biggest market.
The UK generates about 670m parcels a year from e-commerce according to the e-retail industry association IMRG, although 5-10% of that is from sales on British websites by consumers located overseas.
InPost has about 50 staff in the UK at present, split between a sales team and a locations team – the former working on signing up e-commerce merchants and talking to parcel carriers, the latter starting work over the winter with a team of part-time staff in support, to identify suitable locations for parcel terminals, such as in supermarket parking lots, fuel stations and transport hubs.
Once locations are found, the company said staff working on locations for InPost terminals will likely be redeployed in the sales team. Milewski said the company was expecting to expand its UK team considerably as the network ramps up.
InPost is hoping its automated self-service parcel delivery lockers become a familiar sight across the UK
InPost is part of the Integer.pl group, and is one of the biggest private sector postal operators in its native Poland, where it is developing a network of about 1,000 of its parcel terminals. The company runs delivery services for its own machines in Poland and neighboring countries, but in markets including Ireland, Spain, Cyprus, and outside Europe in countries including Chile, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Australia, it is partnering with local delivery specialists.
In the UK, the new InPost network will compete with the existing ByBox network of parcel locker terminals, which started out more than a decade ago with a speciality for delivering parts to engineers working out in the field.
It will also compete with a growing legion of parcel shops in the alternative delivery point arena. Parcel carrier Yodel has its network of 5,000 CollectPlus parcel shops, rival carrier Hermes intends to grow its 1,000-strong new network of myHermes parcel shops to 3,000 by the 2013 peak, while UPS launched a new network of 500 UPS Access Point parcel shops yesterday, with plans to reach 1,500 this June and ultimately 4,000 outlets.
New company Local Letterbox is also rolling out a franchised network of dedicated parcel shops this year, aiming to open 2,000 outlets by this summer. And, Post Office Ltd is also in the process of bolstering its e-commerce activities, improving customer access at its network of 11,800 post offices.
Parcel carrier Hermes said yesterday at the MetaPack delivery conference in London that within just six months of its ParcelShop network launching in the UK, it was seeing as much as 50% of parcels sent through its consumer portal myHermes.com going out through the parcel shop network.
Far from fearing the competition from parcel shops, InPost appeared bullish yesterday, suggesting that the popularity of parcel shops among the British public would translate well to its new parcel terminal network.
InPost’s sales director Krzysztof Warzeszkiewicz told Post&Parcel: “That is very good for our network – 50% of people using parcel shops. This is a very positive number for us.”
Source: James Cartledge, Post&Parcel