Australia Post will shutter its ShopMate service after more than seven years, as the national carrier succumbs to mounting international delivery pressures, and demand for the service drops off.
In an alert to returning ShopMate customers on Tuesday, Australia Post said the service would continue to receive parcels at its US distribution centre until January 10 next year, before winding down to a complete stop on February 25.
For years, ShopMate has been a go-to service for Australians looking to buy online from US retailers reluctant to ship to Australia.
The service allows customers to rent one of its various Oregan-based addresses — located in a purpose-built warehouse — for checkout on American sites, before the package is later re-routed on from the US to Australia.
ShopMate was a hit with Australian shoppers when it was first introduced in 2014, who at the time could get about $USD0.90 for their dollar, and were keen to spend it as the global market saw one of its earliest e-commerce booms.
A spokesperson for Australia Post said the decision was made as a result of “international delivery impacts” and shifting “economic conditions”. They also said ShopMate has seen a downturn in parcel volume, with October seeing a 28% year-on-year decline.
“Until [February 25], our customers can continue to use ShopMate to forward any parcels purchased during the busy US Sales and Christmas shopping period,” they said.
“A number of alternate services are available, including VPost, operated by our ShopMate partner Singapore Post, which allows customers to ship to Australia from the USA, UK, Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia.”
Australia Post’s closure of ShopMate arrives at a time when the world’s entire transport infrastructure struggles to meet pandemic-induced demand, which has all but choked global supply chains.
Australia has imported an immense amount of products in the past year, and it is part of the avalanche of factors behind current supply chain issues. According to ABS data, the country’s inventory to sales ratio plummeted in late 2020 and early 2021.
This metric, which compares how much sellers have on hand to how much consumers are buying, points to significant shortages brought about by the pandemic.
COVID-19 has only exacerbated this, causing a global mismatch in the supply and demand of the world’s shipping containers.
Strikes across the transport industry in Australia — like those seen at StarTrack and FedEx, and those in ports across Sydney and Melbourne — have played a major role in accelerating the impacts of a global supply chain under tremendous amounts of pressure as well.
Earlier this month, Freight Australia said that Australia is reporting a pile-up of empty shipping containers at its ports, which are leading to “excessive truck queuing delays, and inefficient movement and handling processes”.
In other markets around the world, supply shortages have seen shoppers turn to used goods in droves, simply because there aren’t enough new products on the shelves.
In Ireland, the shortage has seen used cars, in some cases, sell for more than their initial purchase price. Meanwhile, visitors of Germany’s largest classifieds marketplace surged 20% in March this year, compared to the year before.
And in the US, shoppers are coming to terms with the fact that they too might need to turn to the likes of eBay and Craigslist to source their Christmas presents.