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.

How to keep your head above water during the Christmas online shopping period in your E-Commerce business

As an e-commerce business owner, you are aware of the demands which the Christmas season brings. But with online shopping increasing year on year, and further boosted by the pandemic, 2021 is set to be your busiest yet! To help you make it through to Christmas Eve without burning the midnight oil too much, we’ve pulled together our top tips to coping with seasonal demand and maximising your profits at this crucial time for your business.

There are few e-commerce businesses for whom Christmas is not the busiest time of year, and even if you have strong summer ranges you have no doubt also developed seasonal lines to take advantage of this bumper consumer period.

Whether you set out as an e-retailer or you diversified last year as a business survival strategy in the face of the pandemic, the evidence suggests that online shopping is going to continue to play a key role in ensuring stockings are full on Christmas morning. In fact, a new report suggests that one in three people expected to shop exclusively online this Christmas!

With widely reported supply chain problems, many shoppers are also placing their orders early to ensure there are no disappointed faces on Christmas Day, so potentially your festive season may be an even longer marathon than usual. To make sure you’re not too tired to enjoy the mince pies and crackers, we’ve pulled together some key strategies to help you keep on top of Christmas demand and improve your bottom line.

  1. Preparation is key for e-commerce success: To guarantee an effective operational flow for your e-commerce business and ensure happy customers regardless of an increase in demand, it is vital to plan. This is particularly important if you are a business who relies on supplies to make your product or imports. Order in good time to avoid those dreaded supply chain issues affecting your ability to reach your full potential this Christmas.

    Having good relations with your suppliers will help here – and it’s never been more important than at a time like the present when there are global supply issues. Picking up the phone occasionally rather than relying solely on emails, carefully-timed thank you presents and taking the time to know them as a person and what’s going on in their lives will all help. After all, if stocks are running low or deliveries being held up, who are you going to give a heads up to place a timely order: the person who treats you like a number or the customer who asked how your daughter’s graduation went?
  2. Be budget aware: Identifying which products you expect to be most successful and ordering your stock accordingly is straight-forward. But ensuring cashflow remains steady and your investment is not too ambitious is key; invoicing swiftly coupled with tight payment terms will help. Also make sure you are budgeting for extra time spent, and that costs such as fast delivery are built in to your prices.
  3. E-commerce helpers needed: Santa couldn’t do it without his elves… if you feel as though you may struggle with the workload and the pressure of the increased sales, consider outsourcing or hiring a temporary worker. Whether it is packing boxes or handling customer service enquiries, think about where your time is best spent and where someone else could do just as good a job – and enable you to get some shut-eye in the process, to make sure driving your e-commerce business doesn’t drive you into the ground.
  4. Perfect packaging for e-commerce order fulfilment: Ordering the materials and supplies needed to make your product and fulfil your e-commerce orders is one thing, but it’s also important to remember what’s needed to post your product to customers. Make sure to stock up on bubble wrap, boxes (especially any bespoke sizes or branded packaging), tape, insert materials and labels prior to the Christmas rush! Hopefully you have a checklist from last year, so you know exactly what you need and how much; if not, make sure you start it this year so you’re not reinventing the wheel next year.
  5. Parcel problems: Whether it’s receiving supplies before Christmas or helping to minimise the disruption with the inevitable returns that come after, you have better things to do when running an efficient e-commerce business than to keep downing tools to take receipt of deliveries. And you definitely have better ways to spend your time than rebooking missed deliveries or driving to the (often not-so-) nearby delivery depot.  A solution to enable you to finish priority tasks, such as order fulfilment, without interruption and use your time more effectively is a parcel delivery box, such as the Penn Parcel Box.

When investing in a parcel delivery box, it’s worth looking for key features to ensure it will meet your needs:

  • Secure – make sure you chose a parcel box with a secure, one-way delivery system and a lockable storage container
  • Size – with lots of deliveries coming into your e-commerce business, make sure you chose a delivery parcel box big enough to accommodate several packages
  • Weather-proof – losing components, supplies or returns to the elements is highly damaging for your e-commerce profit margins

We hope this has helps you to get into gear this Christmas and allows your e-commerce shop to thrive during the fantastic festive period! For more information on how the Penn Parcel Box can allow you to focus fully on your business by taking care of your deliveries, contact our friendly team on 01424 429 641.