Coronavirus will be the end of free delivery, research shows

Coronavirus will be the end of free delivery, research shows
Credit: Belga

The coronavirus crisis will cause the end of free or cheap package deliveries in Belgium, according to research by the University of Antwerp.

"There is a very good chance" that people's online shopping behaviour will cause the end of free delivery, according to transport economist Roel Gevaers of the University of Antwerp. "Parcel services such as Bpost and PostNL are working overtime during these coronavirus times, but they are worried," Gevaers told Radio 2.

"Since the lockdown, we order everything online. Even large furniture or heavy pots of paint of 20 litres. To give you an idea: the number of parcels weighing more than 20 kg has tripled compared to the period before the lockdown," Gevaers said, adding that this causes logistical problems as delivery vans and sorting centres are designed to handle a lot of smaller packages.

These issues will persist, even after the lockdown, according to the research. "We used to buy mainly smaller electronics, toys and clothing online. This is completely different now as a large group of people are discovering that everything can be ordered online. Why would you take the car and start lugging large garden furniture around yourself? Experts predict that we will continue to order large items online in the future," said Gevaers.

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"The large 'oversized' parcels put the whole system under pressure. If couriers can load fewer parcels into their van, more journeys have to be made. Profits will decrease, and, logically, home deliveries will become more expensive. For the customer too," Gevaers said.

"In city or village centres, small vans are already being vilified, and there is even a growing tendency towards bicycle couriers and smaller electric vehicles. It is therefore unthinkable to use larger trucks to keep deliveries affordable," he added.

"In Belgium, we have long believed in the importance of physical stores. Countries such as the Netherlands or Great Britain have already made the switch to online shops a long time ago," Gevaers said, adding that there is still a lot of work to be done for Belgian traders and logistics.

Parcel services will have to completely change the way they work, which will result in the end of cheap home delivery. "The price level will move towards that of players such as DHL, TNT-FedEx and UPS. Their flow of goods has long been geared to a mix of small and large parcels, but this, of course, has a price tag too," he added.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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