Australia Post has announced an ambitious plan to upgrade its parcel delivery service in a bid to cash in on the surge of online shopping, but local retailers have mixed feelings about the move.
In addition to launching new stores and “business hubs”, the postal carrier will extend the operating hours of 100 stores so parcels can be collected at more convenient times.
The postal will install self-service, 24-hour parcel lockers at locations in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
Customers who nominate for a parcel to be sent to a locker will receive a text message when it arrives. They will then be provided a pin code and be given 48 hours to collect the package.
“It’s no longer that old model where dad’s at work, mum’s at home and she’s waiting for someone to turn up at the door,” Australia Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour said yesterday.
Australia Post has a strong stake in Australian online businesses sending parcels domestically and is therefore working with local small retailers to help them send parcels more easily.
Last year, it launched flat-rate satchels for eBay sellers. The online community purchased 85,000 satchels on the first day they became available.
Australia Post is also trialling a product called Shop in a Box, which helps small businesses set up a website with integrated ordering, payments and delivery.
Since July, it has sold 160 units through 20 stores that took part in the pilot, indicating demand is strong.
Parcel growth is expected to continue at 12.5% annually as Australia’s rate of online shopping continues to lag behind that of the United States and the United Kingdom.
“eCommerce is now the new core of our business… Our business is focused on Australian retailers going online to support Australian consumers,” Fahour said.
Tim Morris, co-founder of online retailer The Pantless Postman, says he’s been impressed with Australia Post’s performance over the last year.
“We use a logistics provider who has an account with Australia Post… There have only been two packages that have gone missing in the whole year, out of hundreds,” Morris says.
Morris says he’s interested whether things improve on the pick-up side of the delivery process.
“We deliver stuff that’s often bigger than a letterbox. We try and get around it by encouraging customers to include special delivery instructions such as, ‘if no one’s home, tuck behind bin’,” he says.
“But for those in apartment blocks, who have to go to post office delivery blocks, [self-service parcel lockers] would be quite handy.”
Morris is also interested in the concept of flat-rate satchels, saying this is “definitely something I’m going to be looking into” because pricing currently depends on where the package is going.
But not all Australian retailers have an interest in the changes – online shirt retailer Joe Button has completely sidestepped Australia Post in its delivery service.
“We do drop shipping through our suppliers,” co-founder Modi Song says.
“Our business model is set up so that customers design their shirts and then we send off the order to [manufacturers in] Hong Kong. They ship directly to the customer – there’s no need to ship them back to us.”