Study

20.12.2021

WIK Working Paper No. 2: Parcel locker stations: A solution for the last mile?

Parcel lockers present an alternative delivery option to the traditional delivery methods, i.e. home delivery or postal outlets / parcel shops, and have gained popularity in recent years largely due to growing e-commerce, especially during Covid-19 times. The attraction for parcel lockers is rooted in the flexibility it offers for both delivery and collection of parcels. It significantly improves first-time delivery success rates, lowers delivery costs and eases capacity constraints by providing a single drop-off point to carriers. For recipients, collection of parcels are still relatively convenient at locations that are close to home or on daily commute and typically accessible after hours. For online sellers, it offers an additional delivery option to their customers and delivery fees to parcel locker stations are generally lower compared to home delivery. Furthermore, by shortening the distance that carriers have to travel between delivery points thereby reducing their CO2 emissions, parcel locker stations could also present a more environmentally friendly delivery option.

The spread and use of parcel locker stations vary widely across Europe. In some countries, such as the Nordic countries, the Baltic States and Poland, there are large and dense networks of parcel locker stations that are widely accepted as the preferred delivery method. The operators have found innovative solutions for last mile delivery to improve access and operability, including the use of advanced technologies, e.g. integrating electronic systems and wireless transfer of information between online retailers, deliverers and recipients, as well as enabling contactless parcel pick-up through the use of mobile applications. In the majority of cases, these networks are operated exclusively by one operator (often national postal operators), as they are seen as a competitive advantage. In a few cases, open networks of parcel locker stations have been established, which are attractive for postal and parcel service providers whose B2C parcel volumes are not yet high enough to make it profitable to invest in their own network.

In Germany, there is a large network of parcel stations with the DHL Packstations, but, at the end of 2020, it had a significantly lower density than the networks in the comparator countries. Also, home delivery is still by far the preferred delivery method among consumers in Germany. The planned expansion of the network by Deutsche Post DHL is an indication that parcel locker stations are likely to play a greater role in last-mile delivery. However, as in the comparator countries with high usage, stronger price incentives for senders would be needed to encourage the use of the delivery method.

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