Easy parcel collection for online shoppers

Not home to collect your parcel? New services let you pick it up from shops, MRT stations and even people living near you

Online shopping aficionado Cheryl Loong, 32, considers herself "a homeless nomad" when it comes to deciding where to have her e-commerce steals delivered.

Places she has picked up her items from include a Guardian pharmacy, a Wine Connection store, a cafe and even the home of a stranger who lives across the street from her Admiralty Road house.

Given that the stockbroker tends to buy everything - from yoga mats to shoes to office stationery - online, she says her delivery addresses constantly vary depending on when the item will be delivered and what she needs it for. Her office does not accept personal deliveries.

She is part of a new generation of online shoppers who are not just concerned with free or fast delivery, but also want to choose the location and time of deliveries based on their schedules.

In response, a host of local businesses have cropped up to make the collection of parcels more convenient. With these services, consumers do not have to worry about missing a delivery.

Six-month-old online portal Park N Parcel allows shoppers to choose a "parker" near them to pick up items on their behalf for $2.50. Then, at their convenience, the shopper goes to the parker's house, usually those of retirees and housewives, to collect the parcel.

When people come into the store, they are likely to look around - a win-win for us.

ASSISTANT OPERATIONS MANAGER ALVIN QUEK of Toy Outpost, a local chain of stores which now act as collection points

One such parker is Mr Lionel Lee, 29, who runs a home-based IT business. "I'm usually at home," he says, adding that he has collected 20 parcels since joining the platform in February. He gets paid $1 a parcel.

Another option is to choose retail stores - such as i-Econ Minimart, Toy Outpost and local lifestyle concept shop Naiise - as delivery points.

Park N Parcel has 1,000 collection points across the island.

Similarly, local logistics companies blu and Ninja Van offer the bluPort and Ninja Collect services respectively, which allow customers to pick up parcels bought from websites such as Lazada and Zalora from parcel terminals or retailers such as Guardian or Home-Fix.

Fans of ezbuy - a shopping platform which allows users to buy products from China, Taiwan and the United States - can choose a time to pick up their items at carpark collection points or MRT stations for free.

Items delivered through such services usually have a size and weight limit of 5kg to 8kg.

Mr Prashant Dadlani, 26, founded logistics company blu in 2015 and launched the business officially in October last year. It has built parcel collection terminals at 48 places, such as petrol stations, convenience stores, malls and office buildings.

Before that, he said he spent a year studying the most convenient geographical points for consumers, including "the routes they take to and from work and the locations they are likely to stop at during the course of the day, such as the petrol station or the gym".

Park N Parcel is going one step further by working with online marketplaces.

In a few weeks, it will announce a partnership with consumer-to-consumer marketplace Carousell. The new service allows sellers on the site to drop off items at a collection point, instead of arranging a meetup with a buyer.

Park N Parcel co-founder, Erik Cheong, 28, says: "Dropping off purchases to a designated parker will mean fewer chances of failed meetups, which usually happen when buyers and sellers cannot agree on where or when to meet."

The plethora of delivery options has been popular with consumers - evident by how rapidly these services have been expanding.

Park N Parcel started out with 100 parkers in January, but that number has increased to 1,000 in just six months.

Blu has 48 parcel terminals across the island - up from just one last October - with each offering 50 lockers on average.

And Ninja Collect plans to double its 120 collection points by the end of the year.

For retailers such as Guardian, Wine Connection and Home-Fix, which have come on board to serve as collection points, footfall to their stores has increased.

One example is Toy Outpost, a local chain that rents out lockers in its stores to small merchants to use to display and sell goods.

Assistant operations manager Alvin Quek, 31, says: "When people come into the store, they are likely to look around - a win-win for us."

Cafes partnering Park N Parcel also periodically offer discounts to entice users to spend money at their establishments.

Beyond parcel collection, these new logistics providers are finding new avenues to make life easier for Singaporeans.

Blu recently partnered music festival Ultra to allow attendees to pick up their festival wristbands from a parcel terminal, instead of having to queue for hours during the event itself. The company is in talks to extend this service to dispersing marathon packs.

Mr Dadlani says: "E-commerce use here is still only about 5 per cent, so the potential is huge. Unfortunately, it has remained untapped so far because of gaps in the supply chain process."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'Easy parcel pick up'. Subscribe