Apex Insight comment on the ParcelLock shared parcel locker network: could it work in the UK?

By Frank Proud

The recent announcement by DPD, GLS and Hermes that they are collaborating to develop the ParcelLock shared parcel locker network, a joint venture in Germany, was intriguing. It appears that they plan to roll-out a network which is open to each of them, and also to any other parcel carrier. Dirk Reiche – formerly at the sameday delivery provider, Tiramizoo – has been appointed as ParcelLock’s Managing Director and the venture is currently conducting trials. It’s website says that it is targeting a launch in October.

From the point of view of the consumer, a shared network has a lot of advantages. The obvious analogy is with cash machines – you don’t really care whose it is but you just want to be able to use the most convenient one. However, most recent developments in the parcel shop and locker network area have involved carriers (or as we discussed recently, Amazon) developing their own networks. There have been some carrier-neutral networks such as Kiala in Benelux and France, and InPost and Doddle in the UK, but the former was snapped up by UPS and the latter are understood to be operating at low volumes.

With the backing of three major carriers, which together account for 30% of the German parcels market, ParcelLink seems to be in a much stronger position. It would give its shareholders a network that could rival the very successful DHL PackStations. And it might benefit them in the strategic chess games to be played with Amazon. Perhaps, rather than developing its own lockers in Germany, Amazon might decide to put its weight behind ParcelLock?

Could such a development work in the UK? Firstly our research (European Parcel Shop and Locker Networks Market Insight Report 2015) has found that lockers haven’t taken off in the UK in the way they have in Germany. Also there could be challenges in getting carriers such as the UK arms of Hermes and DPD to on board: Hermes already has a strong parcel shop network and a courier delivery operation that gives it a strong cost-leading position while DPD’s market-leading technology gives it some significant services advantages and it is now rolling out its own parcel shops. So both of these operators might have good reasons to keep the advantages they have over their rivals in home delivery. However, we recently became aware of some work being done by a highly credible team in the UK on similar ideas and await developments with interest