SINGAPORE - Consumers can pick up their online purchases round the clock at their own convenience near their homes with the launch of a nationwide parcel delivery locker network on Friday (April 30).
For a start, over 200 lockers have been deployed islandwide in Housing Board estates, transport hubs and community centres in areas such as West Coast, Jurong, Yishun, Geylang, Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh, Bedok, Pasir Ris and Tampines.
By the end of the year, the government-owned locker network will have about 1,000 lockers.
The locker network is deployed, owned and operated by Pick Network, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Singapore's postal services regulator.
Under the plan, the lockers are meant to be located within a five-minute walk of the 10,000 HDB blocks here.
With such a system, consumers do not need to worry about missing parcel deliveries and having to wait in their homes to receive parcels. Instead, they can choose to use the lockers to collect their purchases round the clock at their own convenience.
Speaking at the Pick locker network launch at West Coast Community Centre, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said on Friday that with Covid-19, more businesses and consumers are going digital than ever before.
He noted that from 2019 to last year, Singapore's e-commerce sector grew by 87 per cent to $5.3 billion in gross merchandise value.
"There is greater impetus to put in place extensive last-mile delivery infrastructure to better serve the needs of the public, whilst helping our logistics service providers achieve higher productivity and stay sustainable amidst this e-commerce boom," said Mr Iswaran, referring to the Pick lockers.
Trials of the lockers have shown that logistics service providers are able to improve their delivery efficiency fourfold, due to the lockers offering a more centralised drop-off point for deliveries, which allows service providers to complete more deliveries and lower operational costs.
Pick charges the service providers a fee - which has not been disclosed - to use its lockers.
Addressing concerns that this could result in consumers paying more, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann told reporters on Friday that manpower delivery costs are a "very important bottleneck that need to be overcome if consumers are to enjoy affordable access to online shopping".
The nationwide locker system is expected to help logistics service providers improve productivity.
"We believe that this is very critical to maintaining costs at an affordable level, and, hopefully, also results in cost savings that consumers can also enjoy in the near future," said Ms Sim.
A Pick locker station usually has between 40 and 50 lockers in six sizes, from extra small, which can contain one shoe box, to extra large, which can contain a 21-inch medium-size suitcase or luggage.
To deter vandalism of and theft from the lockers, security measures such as closed-circuit television cameras have been installed. Each locker also has sensors to verify that the process of depositing and retrieving a parcel has been completed.
Consumers can also return parcels at selected Pick lockers at CCs and HDB blocks.
Pick is working with e-commerce marketplace Qoo10 to let its customers use the lockers to collect their online purchases.
It is also working with online shopping platforms Lazada and Shopee for similar use of Pick lockers by the middle of the year.
Consumers who buy products from these online sites can select Pick as their delivery option. They will get an SMS or e-mail alert when their parcels are ready for collection at the locker location they choose. After keying some verification details at the lockers, they can collect their parcels.
For things bought on other shopping sites that do not support Pick, logistics service providers may still ask consumers if they would like to collect their purchases from a Pick locker.
On Friday, Pick added that it is partnering eight logistics service providers - FedEx, Huper Express, Qxpress, S.F. International, UPS, WMG, XDel and ZTO - for dropping off and returning parcels at its lockers.
In the coming weeks, other providers such as J&T Express, Ninja Van and Shopee Xpress will offer parcel collection services for Pick.
The Government said in March that the parcel locker network is expected to reduce the distance travelled for delivery by 44 per cent daily, which could help reduce carbon emissions from delivering parcels.
The idea for a nationwide parcel locker system was raised by then Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in 2016 to make parcel collection more convenient for both shoppers and deliverymen as e-commerce grew rapidly.
It was part of efforts to raise productivity and job quality in the domestic logistics sector, such as solving the problem of deliverymen failing to deliver parcels to homes as there was no one in to receive them.
Since then, a year-long trial of the locker system that started in December 2018 has been successfully completed.
Pick's eventual tally of 1,000 lockers by the end of 2021 dwarfs those of private sector players, which operate about 100 to 300 lockers each. The players include logistics start-up blu, postal service and courier company Singapore Post and another local logistics start-up Parcel Santa.
Operators of commercial parcel lockers have said previously that the nationwide government-owned locker network will provide better reach in HDB estates, to where the firms do not currently have lockers or the means to expand.
But some players have raised concerns that the Government's locker network will compete with the private sector's.
Earlier in April, Ms Sim told Parliament that Pick was not created to stifle competition among private-sector parcel-locker operators.
On concerns that Pick could become a monopoly, Ms Sim had said that it was not the Government's intent to put Pick in a favoured position.
The nationwide locker network is being run by the Government so that it is neutral and freely accessible to all delivery service providers and consumers, she said, adding that it serves to complement, not compete, with existing locker services.
Consumers have also given the lockers the thumbs up.
Feedback to the nationwide parcel locker network has been positive. Of the more than 12,000 residents polled online, 96 per cent said that they will use the lockers in their neighbourhood.
Mr Meredith Poh, 26, who works in the furniture line, believes that the Pick lockers could be convenient for consumers to use.
"It solves problems for shoppers and deliverymen," said Mr Poh, pointing to how the lockers address the issue of not having anyone at home to receive deliveries.
For details on where the Pick lockers are located, visit this website.