The Royal Mail has launched its first ever parcel postboxes in an attempt to help small businesses and eBayers.
Marketplace sellers on sites such as eBay and Etsy, will be able to post pre-paid parcels through specially adapted parcel postboxes, in the first major change of use of the postbox since its introduction 160 years ago.
The Royal Mail said a parcel postbox trial in the Midlands will allow customers to post parcels through securely designed parcel postboxes with wider apertures, in the same way that they currently post a letter.
The trial, which launched yesterday in Northampton and Leicester, will run until November and has seen 30 postboxes adapted to accept parcels.
Royal Mail says it will review customer feedback and decide whether or not to roll out the scheme across the UK.
The scheme is primarily aimed at small businesses who wanted to avoid staff wasting time queuing up at the Post Office, but will not accept any returns from online shoppers.
According to industry figures around 1 in 4 items ordered by online shoppers are returned, and the online stores have been working closely with delivery firms and high-street click and collect services to streamline the process.
Some online clothing brands, such as Asos, already allow customers to return unwanted items at supermarket customer service counters.
Andy Mulcahy, the strategy director at IMRG, the UK’s online retail association, said any future extension of the Royal Mail scheme to include returning online purchases would likely be welcomed by consumers as levels of satisfaction over returns “continue to lag behind overall satisfaction” with online delivery. “There is still work do there,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
Philip Graves, consumer behaviour expert and author of Consumer.ology, told the Daily Telegraph, said: “I can certainly see why Royal Mail is using its real estate to get a share of the parcel market, especially as the numbers of people sending letters is dropping each year.”
A spokesman for Royal Mail Parcels said: “The trial of parcel postboxes is one of the many ways we are looking to make the lives of customers easier, giving them more options that suit how they want to do business.
“The trial is aimed at giving more flexibility to online sellers who might be running a business in their spare time and not keeping regular office hours.”