Royal Mail is piloting a Sunday parcel delivery service for big retailers from this weekend, after the coronavirus pandemic sparked a boom in online shopping.
A number of retail brands will begin trialling the new Sunday parcel service across the UK, and Royal Mail is talking to other retailers about offering the service to their customers.
The company described the trial as the “first salvo” in its move into the seven-day-a-week delivery market. Rivals DPD and Hermes already do Sunday deliveries for big retailers such as Amazon.
Royal Mail said it had processed “unprecedented” numbers of parcels in the last year, delivering a record 496m in the Christmas quarter to 27 December, 30% higher than the same period in 2019. In a big shift, revenues from parcels overtook revenues from letters for the first time in the six months to 27 September. However, the postal service has been hit by long delays in recent months due to staff contracting coronavirus or self-isolating.
The group is building a second, larger parcel hub in Daventry in the Midlands as it pivots from delivering letters to parcels. The new hub will be the size of more than 10 football pitches, capable of processing more than 1m parcels a day. Royal Mail also launched a parcel collect service last autumn for people who want to return items they bought online.
Nick Landon, chief commercial officer at Royal Mail, said: “The UK already trusts us to deliver their purchases six days a week both quickly and conveniently. Now for the first time our posties will be doing the same thing seven days a week. The last year has reset so many customer expectations and the desire for even more convenient and even more frequent parcel deliveries has certainly been one of them.”
The company already piloted Sunday parcel deliveries within the M25 area in 2014 but decided against rolling out the service then.
A spokesperson said: “It was a completely different time then. We were very early adopters … We’re now seeing those seismic changes in consumer behaviour and the pandemic has accelerated it. We are all locked down at home and so what do we do? We go on the laptop and order things we like.”
He said research carried out by Royal Mail showed that 25% of its customers wanted Sunday deliveries, a number that rose to 40% of younger customers, under 45.