Australia’s online shoppers may face delayed parcel deliveries through to Christmas, a leading supply chain expert says, as Australia Post prepares to pause pick-ups from e-commerce retailers for three days.
From 7am Saturday to 7am Tuesday, Australia Post will suspend parcel post collections from e-commerce retailers in NSW, Victoria, and the ACT, to bring strain on the delivery system “to a safe and manageable level”.
Record parcel delivery volumes have coincided with about 500 Australia Post staff being forced to self-isolate due to potential COVID-19 exposure, executive general manager Gary Star told ABC Radio Melbourne.
Major retailers including Kmart, Booktopia, and online clothing retailer The Iconic have flagged delivery delays, suggesting shoppers across the east coast may have to wait a few days longer for their lockdown purchases.
Post offices and AusPost’s Express Post, Premium, and Startrack Express services will remain unaffected.
“We’re not stopping the delivery,” Star said, “just the collection for e-commerce customers.”
The pause is more of a pressure release valve than a system failure, according to Flavio Macau, a senior lecturer at Edith Cowan University’s School of Business and Law and a board member of the Australasian Supply Chain Institute.
“It’s an adaptation to the current situation,” Macau told Business Insider Australia.
“It’s not like it’s not going to be done at all from this point on. So it’s more like a nuisance than a real disruption.”
Even so, shoppers and retailers alike should prepare for further pick-up pauses in the coming months, Macau said.
With parcel volumes expected to double in late November and early December, “we may need some other pause moments in the future, because this situation has not stabilised as of yet,” he warned.
As with many other industries disrupted by lockdowns, border closures, and COVID-19 exposure sites, the situation may change as vaccination rates increase.
“What we can say is that by Christmas, we can hope that we will get to a point where we have enough people vaccinated that we can have the workforce in this distribution chain in full,” Macau added, “and then we don’t have to stop the process that much.”
Workplace systems which keep delivery staff separated during work, and processes which reduce the physical handling of packages, may also help reduce the shutdown risks, Macau said.
But even if domestic vaccination rates sail past federal government targets before November, global supply chain disruptions may constrain deliveries through the Christmas period.
“We can see from the logistics and transportation perspective that shipments are not guaranteed anymore,” Macau said.
“So, if you can read on the website, ‘Well, it will come from this country and it will arrive in three to four weeks’ time’, you can think that towards the end of the year, it will be five to six to seven, maybe eight weeks’ time.
“If you really want your package, look carefully where it’s coming from. And if it is already for a company in Australia, you can work with shorter deadlines, which is good. Plan in advance as much as possible.”