For more than 150 years Royal Mail posties have delivered letters to every address in Britain. From today they will collect items as well — for a small fee.
In a move hailed as one of the biggest changes to the service since the introduction of the postbox in 1852, Royal Mail will charge 72p to pick up a parcel from anyone’s doorstep.
Customers wanting to take advantage of the new service will not, however, be able to simply hand over parcels to their postman with some cash. They will have to book and pay in advance online and print off and stick a label to their item.
Once postal charges are included, the home collection and first-class delivery of a medium-sized, 2kg packet will cost £6.19.
Royal Mail says it will collect parcels that weigh up to 20kg but they must be no bigger than 61cm by 46cm by 46cm. There is no minimum size so customers can also use the service to send letters should they be unwilling or unable to walk to their nearest postbox. Posties will also collect prepaid returns of internet shopping for 60p.
Nick Landon, of Royal Mail, said: “Parcel Collect is a fantastic step forward for all of our customers. It makes it easier to use our services than ever before. Whether you’re up against time and working from home, making a return, selling online or sending a gift, Royal Mail Parcel Collect is here to help. The launch of Parcel Collect is part of our commitment to continuously make our services better and more convenient.”
Claire Roebuck-Sacks, a customer from Bristol who used the service during the trial, said: “It was really easy to use, and a convenient way to send a gift to my aunt, particularly as I have a new baby.”
The first bookings can be made today for collection tomorrow. Customers can book up to five days in advance. Parcels can be collected every day except Sunday.
The service is part of Royal Mail’s plans to secure a bigger share of the booming parcel market as the number of people sending letters declines. Between 2004 and last year the number of letters sent halved. The pandemic has accelerated that process, with 788 million fewer letters delivered in the three months to the end of June compared with the same period last year, a drop of 33 per cent.
Royal Mail is not the first to offer doorstep collection; its rivals such as Hermes and TNT already offer a similar service.
Prices online suggest that Royal Mail’s service could be good value for smaller parcels up to 2kg but other providers could be cheaper for heavier items. Home collection and second-class delivery of a 2kg, medium parcel will cost £3.67 with Royal Mail but £4.69 with Hermes. However, a 10kg parcel will cost £20.25 with Royal Mail and £6.66 with Hermes.
Returns have become an increasingly important market for the postal system in recent years as internet shoppers want the chance to exchange items they have bought online. The change has spawned an industry of companies to take charge of the process.
Royal Mail’s new service is not the first time it has tried to take market share from its parcel delivery rivals. Last year it introduced parcel post boxes to make life easier for customers after complaints about long queues at Post Office branches.
Such steps may be new but Royal Mail has a long heritage in the parcel market. It introduced the first parcel post service in 1883.