Getting Prepared for Christmas – Q&A

Black Friday week marks the beginning of the festive season in earnest, but as the Penn Elcom Global Parcel Theft Report revealed that parcel theft is at an all-time high, what does that mean for households and businesses during this current cost-of-living crisis?

We asked Penn Elcom chairman, Roger Willems, for his thoughts on the research, how shoppers can take control and secure their bargains on their doorstep, and ensure a Happy Christmas for the whole family.

Why has parcel theft and loss gone up 2% globally in 12 months?
Christmas is a busy time of year, with an overwhelming amount of packages and parcels delivered in the festive season, outside your front door.

I think there are three key reasons behind the increase in the number of missing parcels between May 2021 and April 2022.

Firstly, we’re sending more parcels. The online shopping habits that were accelerated by the pandemic have, to a large extent, stayed with us, so we’re sending and receiving more parcels.

Secondly, as we moved out of lockdown, people started leaving their homes more – going out to work and socially – so they’ve not been around as much to take delivery of their parcels.

This leads onto the third reason. The push towards contactless deliveries created by the need to control the virus during the pandemic restrictions changed courier behaviours and Service Level Agreements. Whereas previously they might have been required to ensure the parcel was delivered in person to the recipient or a household member, it became common for them to leave them on the doorstep, sometimes taking a photo as evidence.

So, not only are we sending more parcels, but a greater proportion of them are being left on the doorstep.

Why has the UK suffered the greatest rate of increase in stolen and lost parcels?

We’re a small island with a lot of people, which creates the perfect environment for porch pirates: lots of densely packed houses, often with a very small front garden or no front gardens, so parcels left on doorsteps are relatively easy to grab.

In urban areas, there are also a high number of multiple occupancy buildings. The commitment for the couriers is only to deliver to the front door, not to a specific apartment or occupier. So if your parcel is left outside the front door or inside the front lobby, there’s nothing to stop any of your neighbours or others appropriating it.  

It’s also a very low-risk crime. There’s a lot less chance of being caught stealing a package off a doorstep than shoplifting, where you’ve got CCTV covering every inch of the shop floor and security guards.

Do we know which areas of the UK have had the greatest increase?

There are some regional breakdowns within the report:

  • Four times more parcel thefts and loss in Wales from the previous 12-month period– up from 4% to 16% – making Wales the worst-affected area in the UK
  • Double the amount of parcel thefts and loss year on year in:
    • Scotland (up 6% to 12%)
    • the Midlands (up from 6% to 12%)
    • the East (up from 5% to 10%)
  • 6% higher rate of overall parcel thefts and loss in the South West compared to the national average (38% parcel issues across respondents’ lifetimes)
Is it likely that the porch pirates are opportunistic thieves or organised criminals?

There are stories of organised criminals following courier vans and picking up the parcels they leave on doorsteps, but for the most part, the crime experts we have spoken to would expect them to be opportunistic. It’s a fine line. If I chose to go down a different street because I know it takes me past some townhouses that open directly onto the street, rather than another road where I know the houses and all got private front gardens, am I being opportunistic, or is that organised?

How might the cost-of-living crisis impact on parcel theft?
Delivery man evaluating package to mark that it has been delivered or not

There is always a link between social crime and poverty or deprivation. The cost-of-living crisis means more people are struggling this year. We know that parcel volumes for 2022 are going to be down on 2021, as consumer spending has dipped. But sadly we would expect that the proportion of parcels that go missing from doorsteps will increase this year, although we won’t know for sure until the Penn Elcom parcel theft report next year.

More people who are normally law-abiding might be tempted to pick up a parcel that they know doesn’t belong to them, especially in the countdown to Black Friday and Christmas, when people are feeling the cost-of-living crisis even more acutely – and when you might reasonably expect those parcels to contain higher-value or more attractive items, that could be sold on or even given as a Christmas gift – but to the wrong person.

What can online shoppers do to protect their parcels from porch pirates?

It makes sense to look for secure delivery options.

Everyone wants the convenience of delivery to their home, but if you can’t be at home when your parcels are delivered – or even if you’re at home but likely to be caught up on a zoom call or looking after the kids and unable to get to the door – it’s sensible to make sure you have somewhere secure for couriers to leave your packages. That might be a secure parcel delivery box.

If you don’t have room for one, it’s sensible to choose other secure options such as delivery to a pick-up/drop-off point. This might be your local corner shop, or a smart locker, such as we’re seeing increasingly on the high street and places like railways stations, where you get a one-time secure code to retrieve your parcel. Yes, it’s less convenient than home delivery, but it’s a lot more convenient than not having that special gift to give to your loved one on Christmas Day.

Thanks Roger!

How can you ensure that Christmas goes to plan? Many couriers are introducing new technology to ensure your parcel comes in one piece, but changes take time and are not guaranteed to be foolproof. With Penn Parcel Box, you do not have to leave home delivery to chance.

Find out more about Penn Parcel Box on our website, or please get in touch with our friendly team on our contact page.