Home / Royal Mail / Quadient’s Katia Bourgeais Crémel reveals how consumers in France the UK are warming to parcel lockers

Quadient’s Katia Bourgeais Crémel reveals how consumers in France the UK are warming to parcel lockers

Parcel lockers have proven to be a huge hit in European countries like Poland, Germany and Finland, but some countries have been slower than others when it comes to embracing this form of out-of-home delivery.

Two of the countries playing catch-up but gaining momentum in this area are the UK and France. According to the Last Mile Experts Out-of-home-delivery in Europe 2023 report, issued in June 2023, the UK had almost 15,000 parcel lockers, while France had just under 9,000. While this puts both countries in the top 5 in Europe in terms of sheer numbers, when it comes to lockers per head of population, many fellow European countries like the Czech Republic boast more parcel locker density.

The situation is nonetheless improving at speed, with various different players installing many more lockers in the past year. One of these players is Quadient, who operate an open locker network that is utilised by numerous different courier companies.

Quadient recently announced that across North America, Europe and Asia, it now has 20,000 lockers in operation, with that number growing on a continual basis.

In France, the company is building partnerships with key players such as supermarket giant Auchan, real estate company Galimmo, and carriers GLS France, UPS and Relais Colis (with other carriers under integration). In the UK, Quadient is working with DHL, DPD, Evri, UPS and Royal Mail.

Given the apparent uptake in parcel locker use in these markets, we sought out the views of Katia Bourgeais Crémel, Quadient’s EVP of Parcel Locker Solutions in Europe, to find out how attitudes to parcel lockers are changing, which locations for lockers are most desirable, and how parcel lockers could be utilised for so much more than just parcels.

Gregor Gowans: How large is Quadient’s parcel locker network in the UK?

Katia Bourgeais Crémel: We have private lockers for corporate companies, retailers, and for private buildings like residential apartment blocks and universities.

We are working towards 2000 lockers across the UK by the end of 2024. We have partnerships with Stonegate [the aforementioned pub chain], APCOA [who own car parking facilities in the UK], Motor Fuel Group, Homebase, and Rontec [both operators of fuel stations forecourts] that are helping us here.

Our lockers are now available in all the key cities in the UK.  We’re focusing, of course, on the area within M25 and the city of London, but not only.

We also have a unique solution in our open network. Compared to other locker networks, ours is offered as a shared service among different carriers and their users.

The lockers can be located in a supermarket, at a convenience store, in a train station or a car park or in leisure places like a gym or pubs for instance.

So there are several different types of locations where we can install a locker that can be used by any of our existing partners, whether that may be UPS, Evri, DHL or DPD, and very soon, Royal Mail, as has been recently announced.

How important is it for parcel locker networks in the UK to find partners with whom they can expand quickly? It seems that getting permission to install a parcel locker in the UK may be more difficult than in some other countries, which I presume makes deals with retailers and other businesses with multiple locations so important.

We have a lot in the pipeline, and as you’ve pointed out, we have to find the right locations that meet end users’ expectations as well as the carriers’ needs.

The carriers usually have access points and they want those to complement lockers. The lockers are easy to use for the drivers and for the end users, making them now part of every carrier’s strategy.

Our target of course is to focus on large hosts deals because to grow our network. we have to be efficient and quick. This means our strategy is really to concentrate on big brands and big retailers.

We’re looking at different types of locations because the lockers have to be convenient for end users. We have to be close to three types of locations. Firstly, transport stations and hubs where people use to get to and from to work everyday, as well as places in which people enjoy and spend time. Finally, there’s residential buildings.

That’s why Stonegate was a good example. In the UK pubs are a key element of daily life in communities. They are convenient for UK consumers because they can usually visit a pub that is close to their home. So places like this are actually the perfect location to install a parcel locker.

The hosts of the parcel lockers themselves benefit too. They get regular revenue coming from what we give to them to operate our locker.

In addition to this, they get more footfall from people that may not have previously gone to their pub, shop, hotel, gym or other business, because they’ve come primarily to pick up a parcel. This can potentially bring more customers to hosts of parcel lockers.

How are consumer attitudes to parcel lockers changing in the UK and France?

What we see is that these two countries used to be access point focused.

For a long time we have had a large number of access points. The young generations in particular, but not only, are nonetheless becoming more and more digitised.

With the lockers, when you use them the first time, you want to use them again and again. With a simple QR code scan, in one fell swoop you can collect your parcel. Compare that to going to a Post Office and joining the queue on Saturday morning with many others, which is the only time some people may have to pick up their parcels.

Moreover, if you go to a shop where the customer experience sometimes is not good, or staff are rude, or if your parcel has been lost or damaged, and then you pick up a parcel via a locker with 24-hour access, you won’t want to go back.

We’re also seeing more consumers using lockers for returns and C2C transactions. With our lockers, you can take a parcel, print the return label yourself via an interface on the locker, and stick that label on the parcel. You can then put the package in the compartment and that’s that. It can be done anytime, for example on a Sunday afternoon when you have five minutes and can drop by a locker close to your home.

Another thing is the fact that people are more aware of CO2 emissions nowadays. If you order on three different websites and you need three different deliveries, you have to stay at home the whole day. On top of that, three trucks will come to your place to deliver your parcel, which is definitely not sustainable, nor is it responsible from a customer’s perspective.

From a carrier’s perspective, lockers provide one stop for multiple parcels and recipients. This replaces multiple journeys – meaning lockers represent a tangible way to reduce the level of traffic on local roads.

How complex is it for carriers to integrate with an open parcel locker network?

It’s not actually very complex.

The development and process of integration is done together with the carriers and their systems.

It’s all about integration and making sure the parcel delivery option is visible on the e-commerce site the customer is purchasing from. alongside click-and-collect and home delivery.

It’s also important to have communication on the website to make the locations of lockers visible, as well as to inform consumers of new locations near their homes.

To what extent do you see ‘parcel lockers’ being used for more than just parcels?

The way we picture lockers is that they are more a hub of services – not only for parcels.

They can be used for all kinds of exchanges between businesses and people. Letters are a good example, but lockers can be used to exchange a wide variety of things – even exchanging keys. Anything that has to be collected or shared can be stored in a locker. They can also act as a place for the neighbourhood to exchange items too.

For example, in France, many small cities want to create a community and build commercial activity, while larger cities are looking for a means by which collection services can be made available 24/7 for their citizens. So it’s absolutely more than just parcels.

Consider spare parts, for instance. You have mechanics in the UK driving to different places to fix machines and systems, or skilled tradespersons going to private homes or businesses to repair items.

They often need spare parts, but can’t travel with all the stock. Using lockers, the engineers could collect what they need for the day and return the parts at the end of their shift.

If a company can avoid having to make their engineers travel hundred miles to get spare parts, it can reduce costs and time dramatically.

You recently unveiled an interesting-looking oversized locker concept that will be rolled out at a number branches of a US DIY wholesaler. Could there be a space in the market for something similar here in Europe?

Indeed, there is a market for that, though we see it’s not totally mature at the moment. On the other hand, it would definitely be a great solution to have low-cost storage to use more for B2B flows than B2C.

We have some pilot schemes with big retailers in the UK with large lockers, and they’ve actually reduced their costs as they’ve less people dealing with on-site deliveries, or click-and-collect orders as they are often called in the UK.

This means they can transfer those people dedicated to handling parcel collection to the shop floor, which can help with operations and thus lead to an increase in revenue.

We’re observing that some retailers or carriers are requesting for a large locker to be installed at their warehouse or depot, because, as you said, customers for whom home delivery isn’t possible can actually collect at the warehouse no matter the time of day.

Finally, orders can be made late at night and picked up by drivers early in the morning. So this is another use case we are seeing with large lockers.

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