Record ecommerce volumes prompt changes at Australia Post

Australia Post is transforming its parcel service to respond to the unprecedented changes stemming from online retail. It is extending opening hours for customers to collect parcels after hours, and is also set to trial parcel collection terminals that will provide 24-hour, seven-days-a-week access.

The company said today it was facing the most significant changes to its parcel operations in its 200-year history.

Australia Post managing director Ahmed Fahour said: “These new measures are additions to existing parcel services and come in response to a 10.9% increase in parcel volumes over the last financial year – a figure which can be directly linked to Australians taking up online shopping in record numbers.”

Easier collection

Extended hours will initially be offered in 100 parcel pickup locations across the country, with many set to open at the weekend.

New parcel terminals will be trialled in 24 locations within Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane by the end of November, although there are plans for more beyond the initial 24. The technology sees customers alerted to parcels delivered into a locker in their nearest parcel terminal via text message or email.

The new collection arrangements seek to counter a common difficulty for online shoppers in receiving purchases if deliveries are made while they are at work.

Arrangements have been trialled in Sydney already, Australia Post said.

“We trialled extended hours and drive-through parcel collection in Sydney, and 90% of residents surveyed who took part in the trial told us they wanted the service to continue,” said Richard Umbers, executive general manager of parcel services at Australia Post.

Australia Post said it has been upgrading 60 of its business hubs to focus on small-to-medium businesses, with the first upgraded hub set to open in Mount Waverley, Victoria, in November. Around 20 should be completed by the end of 2012.

The Post is also planning some new services including a new international tracked parcel product, dubbed Pack and Track International, for shipments between Australia and the United States. This service is available for online shipments from today, but will be available in post offices from early next year.

Retail

On the retail side, changes are also planned to improve collection from post offices. A new “flagship” concept store is set to open in Brisbane in December, which will boast an online shopping area, round-the-clock parcel pick-up zone and vending machines for stamps and packaging.

The Post Office Agents Association Limited (POAAL), the umbrella group for 3,000 licensed post offices in Australia (about 75% of the network), said today it was confident Australia Post could adapt and grow its services to suit ecommerce customers.

It said the extended network of parcel collection lockers should help “ease the pressure” on some licensed post offices currently handling large volumes of parcels, although it pointed to some possible loss of foot-flow in post offices branches.

POAAL said parcel collection lockers were best suited to areas of high density population.

“It is a balancing act to service the customer and not disadvantage LPO owners,” said POAA chief executive Ian Kerr.  “Parcels
awaiting collection help drive foot traffic to the post office network.  People picking up parcels may make  other discretionary purchases at LPOs.”

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