We spent 2 days at the Post Expo 2009 in Hannover, Germany. One product group which caught our attention were self service POS stations and parcel counters.

aCon Self Post Unit and Self Post Locker

DHL pack stations

Of course these technologies have been around for some years already, but so far not too many are deployed. In Germany, this will change very quickly. Deutsche Post will outsource all retail operations within the next 2 years. This is possible due to simplified rate structures and streamlining of products. So far 2000 pack stations have been deployed in Germany, another 500 are deployed by the end of 2009. The pack stations are located at strategic locations such as supermarkets or gas stations. Customer acceptance is encouraged by giving a 1.5 Euro (approx. $2.20) shipping discount on parcels.

Postal services all over the world are now looking at outsourcing of their retail locations and the existing self service stations are a key technology to support such transition. The move of Deutsche Post to outsource all retailing within 2 years is quite bold. It is to be seen how 3rd party operators, adhere to the german “Postgeheimnis” (postal secrecy), which is protected by the German constitution. It is not unreasonable to assume that 3rd party operators, with constantly changing staff, will be more prone to violate postal secrecy. This would be yet another reason to rely more on self service stations to drop off mail and parcels.

We are not sure how USPS will handle such development. USPS is in the process of closing 413`retail stations. We are not aware of any serious plans to outsource and automate retail stations on a wide scale. This is not too surprising. USPS is not exactly in the position to afford costly transitions. And the complicated rate structures, along with the smorgasbord of USPS forms and various barcodes, are not providing a good starting point for transitioning retail. Nevertheless, over time we foresee eventual deployment of USPS self service stations, which will provide basic mail services. If this proves to be somewhat successful, it will lead to the closure of more USPS retail locations.