While automated package lockers for ecommerce pickup are starting to see some traction in the U.S., with several major retailers like Macy’s and Home Depot rolling them out, there has been greater adoption to date in other countries, as they solve space and retail delivery issues.
According to a joint last-mile study in 2018 conducted by DHL and Euromonitor International, package lockers placed in 24-hour locations such as gas stations and mini marts provided more flexibility than those inside retail stores. Poland and Germany in particular are two strong markets for lockers, DHL found. Several ecommerce and logistics companies are also developing the concept of central drop off and pickup.
In Germany, shoppers can opt to have their ecommerce orders sent to one of 3,700 DHL Packstation lockers at checkout, with 1,000 more being added. More than 12 million customers of all ages have used them since they were introduced in 2003 at places like train stations, grocery stores and public parking lots.
“The Packstation can facilitate the work of our package delivery staff as it can be successfully delivered with the first attempt,” said Sarah Preuss, a spokesperson for DHL. “With constantly growing package volume, however, it is not a question of labor allocation.”
Delivery and logistics providers in Japan began testing lockers in 2018, as ecommerce grew and labor availability dropped, according to Japan Times. One joint program was funded by the country’s top courier, Yamato Transport Co., and France-based Neopost, with 2,000 lockers set up at train stations, supermarkets and pharmacies. Yamato rival Sagawa Express Co. also uses them. Customers must be registered members of one of the participating carriers.
The DHL/Euromonitor study also examined intelligent lockers that can handle returns using product codes. Citibox in Spain, for example, features a small mailbox for apartment buildings that allows for drop offs and pickups that can be arranged by smartphone.
Steve Osburn, managing director of Kurt Salmon, part of Accenture Strategy, said many retailers in Europe don’t provide free shipping, instead offering buy online pickup in store (BOPIS) to avoid charges that lead to abandonment at checkout. This is why lockers adoption is more prominent there, he said.
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