Convenience stores' parallel postal service keeps growing
Ms. Seo, a 31-year-old office worker, doesn’t wait for the mailman anymore.
If friends need to send her something, she tells them to use their nearest convenience store. They can drop a package off at a convenience store near them, and it is sent for a fee to a branch of the same chain near Seo's place.
She picks things up on her way home after work.
Although a bit of a hassle, not having to worry about packages being stolen is the big advantage.
“I live in a one-room studio apartment and parcels are left on my doorstep because there is no other place to put them, and I’ve lost packages a few times,” said Seo. “I use convenience store deliveries because it's cheap.”
BGF Retail’s CU chain has a service that delivers packages from one CU branch to another at a fee starting from 1,600 won ($1.30). The number of its deliveries last year rose 616.8 percent on year, although the company said it couldn't disclose the exact number.
GS25 is offering the same service, and the number of its deliveries rose 307 percent on year to 6.03 million.
“With logistics companies going on strike and raising prices, there has been higher demand for convenience store deliveries,” said Kim Do-youn, a merchandiser at BGF Retail.
At CU, customers pay 1,600 won to send a package under 1 kilogram (2.2 pound), which would cost around 2,900 won to 4,400 won using other logistic services depending on the distance.
For a package over one kilo but under five, CU charges 2,400, which would cost 4,400 to 5,900 won using logistics services.
Although cheaper, deliveries do take a bit longer. According to BGF Retail, it takes two to three days for parcels to arrive.
Lower fees come from an easier delivery process. Instead of one delivery worker making many trips to different apartments, they can drop off multiple packages to a single convenience store in a neighborhood.
No additional workers are needed.
GS25 already has workers delivering food products — like triangular samgak gimbap and sandwiches — twice a day, and parcels are picked up in the process. Packages are delivered back to logistics centers and then sent to designated GS25 branches along with other food.
“We were able to cut back on prices by using our existing logistics system,” said a spokesperson for GS25.
Many customers are people in their 20s and 30s. For CU’s service last year, 32.8 percent were people in their 20s and 35.5 percent were in their 30s. According to GS25, 44 percent of their users are in their 20s and 36 percent in their 30s. A big portion — 79 percent — of GS25’s customers are women.
“Unless it’s an urgent package people need to receive the next day, many young Koreans are using convenience store deliveries that take two to three days but are cheaper,” said a spokesperson for CU.
The rise in popularity of buying secondhand goods is also fueling the trend.
Some people are reluctant to tell their address to strangers when buying secondhand goods from them. Using convenience store deliveries is more anonymous.
BY CHOI HYUN-JU, LEE TAE-HEE [email@example.com]