Postal operator Royal Mail announced plans Wednesday to collect parcels from UK homes in the wake of the pandemic.
Trade group NFRN, however, described the move as a ‘severe blow’ to many of the independent retailers.
“The new service – Parcel Collect – means postmen and postwomen will now be able to collect parcels as well as deliver them on their daily round,” the former state-run company said in a statement.
“It is one of the biggest changes to the daily delivery since the launch of the postbox in 1852,” Royal Mail added.
The company has experienced a surge in parcel deliveries as Covid-19 fuels online shopping.
Parcel Collect will pick up a maximum of five packages per address, avoiding the need to visit a postbox or postal office.
Each item will be collected for 72 pence, in addition to postage costs and following an online booking. The new service will also collect pre-paid return items for 60 pence each.
Many smaller independent retailers who offer a parcel collection and return service fear they will lose vital revenue because of the move by Royal Mail.
“This is definitely going to be a blow to us,” said Graeme Pentland, who owns Ashburton Village Store in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne.
“We have contracts with two of the major parcel delivery companies and also have our own service, whereby customers can have their parcels delivered to the shop.
“This is a growing part of our business, so the move by Royal Mail is bound to have a detrimental effect on us and other independent retailers, as well as the couriers.”
Stuart Reddish, national president of NFRN, noted that using local stores for parcel collections and returns has a number of advantages in terms of convenience as stores are open for up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, as opposed to having to book a time slot and be at home for the new Royal Mail service.
“Parcels are an important source of revenue for many of our members, and this is an unwelcome move at such a challenging time,” Reddish added.
“Independent retailers have really stepped up to the mark during the Covid-19 pandemic, going above and beyond to serve their communities, and should be supported as much as possible.”
The nationwide launch of the Royal Mail service follows an initial roll-out in western England.