Shippers sent 103 billion parcels globally in 2019, at a rate of 3,248 parcels per second, according to the Pitney Bowes 2019 Parcel Shipping Index released Monday. The Index tracks parcels weighing less than 70 pounds shipped from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Germany, the U.K., France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, China, Japan, Australia and India.
China increased its lead in global parcel volume in 2019, shipping more than 63 billion parcels last year, representing 26% YoY growth and making up substantially more than half of global parcel volume. China, Japan and the U.S. volume combined represent 84% of global parcel volume.
Pitney Bowes predicts global postal volume will reach 220-262 billion annual parcel shipments by 2026 due to the quickening pace of e-commerce offerings from retailers and adoption from consumers around the world.
Emma Cosgrove/Supply Chain Dive, data courtesy of Pitney Bowes
Though the pandemic has caused an e-commerce boom, 2020 has dealt parcel volume some mixed conditions.
New operational necessities put in place to avoid the spread of the virus, along with the uncertainty brought on by fluctuating business restrictions, interrupted parcel carrier service. UPS and FedEx suspended their service guarantees in March, and neither has reinstated them as of October. Freight forwarders DHL Global Forwarding and Ceva Logistics declared force majeure in March.
Service interruptions and depressed economic activity more generally may have caused a dip in parcel volume. The Universal Postal Union reported cross-border parcel volume was down 21% YoY, between Jan. 23 and May 14.
But these hindrances likely only slowed down the deluge. Major U.S. retailers reported jumps in e-commerce volume in the second and third quarters — some more than 100%. And roughly one-third of U.S. small- to medium-sized businesses reported, as of September, their shipping volume had increased, according to a poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of Pitney Bowes. Nearly 60% of these shippers reported using USPS as their carrier “most of the time.” Only 12% of the SMBs polled added new carriers to their rotation during the pandemic.
“Although we won’t document the full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the industry until next year’s report, in April alone the USPS noted a 60 percent rise in parcel volume across the US,” said Vice President of Sending Technology Solutions Jason Dies in a statement.
Though unending parcel growth is, in theory, good for carriers, revenue growth generally outpaces volume in the Pitney Bowes Index. Some carriers have responded to the growth brought on by 2020 with strict volume-control measures to ensure that the parcels they do carry are profitable ones.
Revenue derived from parcel shipping is growing at a slower rate than volume, according to Pitney Bowes. Revenue grew 11% from 2018 to 2019, reaching $351 billion last year, while global parcel volume grew almost 18%, YoY. Global parcels per capita increased from 23 in 2018 to 29 in 2019.
UPS’s newly installed CEO, Carol Tomé, entered the company this summer with the motto of “better, not bigger,” and executives from the carrier have stated they will be selective about what volume they accept. FedEx, UPS and USPS have instituted price hikes and surcharges to cover the extra expense of delivery in the pandemic.
“While parcel volumes keep rising, carriers are racing to keep up with competition and with consumer demand, delivering innovative new customer experiences, digitalizing technologies and investing in infrastructure, all while generating sustainable revenues,” said Dies.
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