Online retail giant Amazon could be on the verge of dropping its contract with Bpost to set up its own delivery chain in Belgium, according to unions representing Bpost workers.
Amazon denied the report when approached by Le Soir, but said it did intend to “expand our network of partners to meet the increased demand”.
Amazon already has its own last-mile delivery service in France, Germany, the UK and the US. It also has a history of allowing its business to build up in a country using local partners, and then when penetration had reached a sufficient level, of taking over the rest of the logistical chain for itself.
According to Thierry Tasset, secretary-general of the CGSP Poste union, that s exactly what is happening in Belgium.
“The management of Bpost have sent us information indicating that Amazon will open a site in Brussels and two others potentially in Charleroi and Liège,” he told the paper. “There is talk of them starting their activities on November 15th.”
It seems the company has no plans at present to open sites in Flanders, where their market share is lower, as customers prefer Dutch-language sites like Bol.com and Coolblue.
Amazon has promised Bpost it will still deliver the same number of packages with the post office as it does now, but will use other partners for packages associated with future growth. That is likely to mean that Bpost will handle rural and semi-rural areas which are more expensive to cover, but which are part of the Bpost remit as a state-owned enterprise.
Amazon and its partners, meanwhile, can concentrate on the more lucrative urban and suburban sectors.
“I am concerned about employment in distribution centres and parcel centres in large cities,” Tasset said.
“In Liège, Amazon represents 50% of all packages processed. What will we do with our mail carriers if the volumes are transferred to the countryside? We are surely not going to send the Liège mail carriers to work at Libramont?”
“There will be no Amazon delivery personnel on the streets,” said Julie Vallette, spokesperson for Amazon. But things will change.
“There is a desire for us to expand our network of partners to cope with increased demand. When you see annual growth rates of 10-15%, you have to adapt. We can no longer ask a single operator to take care of everything, all by themselves.”