Royal Mail postal workers will for the first time collect parcels on the doorstep, in one of the biggest changes to the service as it adapts to the decline in letters and rapid growth in online shopping.
From Wednesday customers across the UK will be able to pay a fee of 72p on top of standard postage costs for every package under the new “parcel collect” service. Pre-paid return items will cost 60p per item.
Postal workers will collect up to five items per customer per day between Monday and Saturday, subject to limits of 61cm x 46cm x 46cm in volume and 20kg in weight. Items will be collected from the door or from a safe place on the property chosen by the customer.
Customers will be able to make bookings only via Royal Mail’s “click and drop” online service up to five days in advance until midnight on the day before collection. The service will provide collection slots of between two and four hours.
Royal Mail said the collection service was one of the biggest changes to the daily round since the postbox was launched in 1852. The first parcel post was introduced in 1883.
The postal service, privatised in 2013, has struggled with the shift away from letters to parcels as firms rely more on email for routine communications just as consumers become more comfortable with online shopping and returning items.
The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online shopping, with restrictions closing non-essential high street shops for months during 2020. Royal Mail staff have worked throughout the pandemic, amid significant safety concerns from unions.
Royal Mail reported a £139m increase in total revenue in the five months to 30 August, as the pandemic caused a surge in parcel deliveries. Parcel volumes during that period rose by a third year-on-year – an increase of 177m parcels.
At the same time, Royal Mail has repeatedly signalled that it must make major changes to its business to raise profitability as letter volume declines. Addressed letter volumes fell by more than a quarter during the same period – a decrease of more than 1bn letters.
The new parcel collect service, which was first trialled around Bristol, will not result in new jobs, a Royal Mail spokeswoman said. Instead, the new work is expected to fit into the daily rounds of the UK’s 90,000 postal workers, after discussions with the Communication Workers Union.
Royal Mail declined to share estimates of how many packages it expected to collect with the new service, or how much profit it expects to make. However, it said that its research showed that 44% of respondents said they were likely to use a home collection service.
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