The Post Office is conducting London trials of a new ParcelShop network allowing customers to collect and return parcels without using a post office.
betterRetailing uncovered the network following trademarks registered by the Post Office last May. The company confirmed: “Following feedback from our customers we are trialling a new service, ParcelShop, for customers to collect and or return parcels ordered online.
“The returns and collections market is a significant growth area and we want to provide a convenient service for those customers who would otherwise use a competitor.”
A message to customers from the Post Office reads: “Customers are telling us they want quicker, easier and more convenient ways of collecting and returning their parcels in a reliable and secure way. So, as well as our 11,500 post office branches, we are offering you more locations to collect and return your prepaid parcels through ParcelShop by Post Office.
“Look out for convenient trial locations opening in London 2019/2020.”
Eleven sites including libraries, newsagents, a pharmacy, a computer repair shop and homeware stores started providing the click-and-collect services for carriers Royal Mail and Parcelforce in November. Some are less than 500 meters from existing post offices like The Convenience Store on New Oxford Street.
A store manager claimed they were not made aware of the trial before it launched. He said: “There’s positives and negatives. We don’t make much on parcel services and it will give us more time to focus on other areas, but negatively it has the potential to impact store footfall.”
Shop owners partnered with the Post Office responded with dismay at the proposal. One said they were ‘gobsmacked’ the service would be competing with existing post offices. Others challenged contract terms that prevent post office retailers from hosting rival services, yet allow the post office to launch rival services nearby.
Another commented: “The Post Office needs to decide: they either work with us or not. No other franchise actively looks to undermine its franchises like this.”
Challenged on the launch of ParcelShops in close proximity to existing partnered stores, the Post Office responded: “The trial is taking place in a small number of locations which have a high population density and we have assessed locations very carefully.
“The trial is designed to provide additional, convenient locations for customers without having an impact on existing post offices.”
Four sites taking part in the trial were unable to give the amount of commission received per parcel processed when questioned by betterRetailing. Asked about demand for the service, staff at the four locations said they received between three and 10 daily users.
betterRetailing understands the Post Office has hired market research firm Trinity McQueen to survey ParcelShop customers about their experiences using the survey until March 2020.