Royal Mail is set to begin delivering parcels on Sunday for the first time since 1516 as it scrambles to meet demand amid the ongoing online shopping boom.
Royal Mail will trial the seven-day delivery service with a number of unnamed major UK retailers in a bid to claw back market share from rivals like Hermes and DPD.
During a year of successive national lockdowns, online retail sales have skyrocketed, driving the value of the delivery market through the roof and triggering fierce competition between the big players.
The trial, which will be rolled out next month, will seek to both alleviate pressure on Royal Mail and ease delays as well as match the offering of its rivals, many of which already deliver on Sundays.
“The last year has reset so many customer expectations and the desire for even more convenient and even more frequent parcel deliveries has certainly been one of them,” Royal Mail’s chief commercial officer Nick Landon said.
During lockdown Royal Mail said it has “processed unprecedented parcel volumes”, breaking records by delivering nearly 500 million parcels in the last quarter of 2020.
It comes just a week after the Post Office, which recently ended its historic exclusivity deal with Royal Mail, entered a landmark click & collect partnership with Amazon.
According to a letter sent to postmasters participating in the trial, which includes 200 branches in Edinburgh, Newcastle and Preston, customers will now be able to collect their Amazon orders at their local Post Office.
Postmasters are understood to have received smartphones designed to scan Amazon packages as they arrive, allowing customers to simply present a pickup code before collecting their parcel.
Hargreaves Lansdown’s senior investment and markets analyst Susannah Streeter commented: “With the e-commerce boom continuing through the latest lockdown, online shoppers have come to expect seven-days-a-week delivery as standard.
“Launching a Sunday delivery service is clearly an attempt to seize the moment and capitalise on the snowballing momentum the group has picked up over the past four months.
“This week, Royal Mail again upgraded its profits forecasts because of the surge in home deliveries and renaissance of letter writing during the pandemic.”