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The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"Parcelforce is gearing up for a big increase in shopping via the internet"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Later delivery for e-tailers
Parcelforce lorry
There may be a charge for evening deliveries
The UK takes a small step nearer becoming a 24-hour society with the news that Parcelforce is to start making evening deliveries.

One of the big problems with ordering parcels is that most carriers will deliver only during office hours, when no one is at home.

But now, with the growth of home shopping - particularly through the internet - companies are having to respond to customers' needs.

Shoppers will be able to opt to have their packages delivered in time slots between 0700 and 2100 Monday to Friday.

But there could be a small extra charge for businesses which want Parcelforce to make evening deliveries.

Greater choice

"The new home shopper is looking for greater choice with the ability to select the time of day when their goods are delivered," said Nick Streeter of Parcelforce.

"Post Office research shows evening delivery is the preferred option for one-third of consumers."
Online shopper
Colossal growth in online shopping is predicted

Parcelforce has been testing the scheme in six towns around the UK and will now be rolling it out to most of England, Wales and southern Scotland.

One of the big concerns about the growth in online shopping is the ability of e-tailers to deliver the goods.

That has led to increasing consolidation in the logistics and distribution sector as businesses look to capitalise on this new market.

In February, two of Britain's largest freight companies, NFC and Ocean, announced merger plans.

The resulting 2.75bn group, called Exel, aims to cash in on the boom in deliveries generated by internet trading.

UK companies are having to act fast, because European predators are looking to grab some of the domestic market.

Global player

The German state carrier, Deutsche Post, has reinvented itself as a global player, second in size only to the US Postal Service.

It has a stake in courier company DHL, while the Dutch post office has bought rival TNT.

However, the increase in online shopping - predicted to grow 10-fold in the next five years - could also bring a huge increase in traffic on the roads.

Logistics companies are looking at ways they can reduce the number of lorries returning to base empty.

This month, Mars said it would make its internal system available on the internet so carriers and businesses could pair up to fill unladen vehicles.

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See also:

16 Feb 00 | Business
Internet sales 'will jam roads'
22 Dec 99 | Business
Delivery at internet speed
06 Dec 99 | Business
UK internet shopping set to boom
11 Apr 00 | Business
Empty? Fill up with Mars
08 Jul 99 | The Company File
Last post for old-fashioned carriers
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