The Royal Mail is introducing the UK’s first parcel postboxes across the country, enabling small businesses and marketplace sellers to post pre-paid parcels - and online shoppers to make some returns more easily.
The organisation says this is the first major change to the postbox to take place since they were introduced, 160 years ago. The fist UK postboxes were trialled in Jersey in 1852 and the following year they were introduced across the year by Anthony Trollope, the novelist, who was also a senior GPO executive. Parcel Post was subsequently introduced in 1883.
This introduction of parcel postboxes also follows a trial that took place last year.
Parcels posted into the new wide aperture secure postboxes - which have been repurposed from existing meter boxes – must have been prepaid using the Royal Mail’s Click & Drop online labelling system, available to consumers, online sellers and account customers.
Online shoppers, meanwhile, will be able to use them to return some barcoded parcels.
Some 1,400 postboxes will be rolled out over the course of six months, starting in August, in locations including Aberdeen, central London, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Swindon, Bristol, and Cardiff.
Mark Street, head of campaigns at Royal Mail, said “The wide scale introduction of parcel postboxes is one of the many ways we at Royal Mail are looking to make the lives of our customers easier. The parcel postboxes trial last year was a success, and we hope that the wider roll-out gives added flexibility to online sellers who might be running a business in their spare time and not keeping regular office hours.”
Commenting, Siobhan Gehin, managing director at Kurt Salmon, part of Accenture Strategy, said: “Retailers face an ongoing battle to absorb the cost of returns, with some starting to crack down on serial returners and ‘wardrobers’ – people who wear something once then send it back. Royal Mail’s parcel postboxes are good news for consumers who want a seamless online shopping experience and offers another means of sending back unwanted items. It will, however, significantly alter the dynamics in the UK returns markets as return rates are likely to rise further as customers make the most of the new postboxes on street corners across the UK.
"As retailers, both online and on the high street, continue to struggle to make ends meet, rising return costs will be another headache that they will have to stomach in the months ahead. Convenience stores who act as drop-off points for returns and rely on these types of customers for purchases may well see footfall soften too."
Our view: Any move that makes it easier for retailers to send out parcels and for shoppers to return unwanted items has to be welcomed. This move should save time queueing in Post Offices, and could even make it more likely that shoppers buy more if they find it easier to make a return. We predict a certain amount of initial confusion about just which parcels can be send in the new postboxes, but once customers are used to the system we expect they’ll be a convenient addition.
Image courtesy of Royal Mail