- Fifteen United Supermarkets stores including Market Street and Amigos locations near the chain’s headquarters in Lubbock, Texas will accept FedEx packages on customers’ behalf in an effort to thwart people who steal packages from porches — so-called “porch pirates,” reported Supermarket News. Customers present their name and ID at guest services to retrieve their goods, scanned at the store with an authorized FedEx handheld scanner to update tracking information.
- United worked directly with FedEx to develop a system for package security and tracking. Trained United staff in each store will receive packages daily and store them in a secure holding area. The program does not include other FedEx services such as shipping or labeling.
- COO Chris James of The United Family Stores, which is owned by Albertsons, cited the popularity of online shopping and the correlating rise in porch piracy as reasons for the service. “As the holiday purchases begin to arrive, we want our new service to give United shoppers convenience and little peace of mind,” he said in a statement.
United could find new sales and potentially new customers by offering this neighborly service. Presuming the number of incoming packages stays reasonable, it might make a sensible addition to its guest services.
The feature brings customers who might not otherwise stop by that store inside, increasing the chance they’ll buy something during their visit. UPS has long promoted its Access Point network to retailers as a traffic and sales booster, with customer loyalty as a bonus. Self-described disruptive tech companies such as Doorman give customers detailed control of their package transit — allowing them to choose a specific timeframe to receive a package, for example.
Amazon’s locker program has spurred 11% more “quick trips” to the 75 or so Whole Foods that offer the safekeeping space. Customers, especially apartment dwellers, seem to appreciate the choice to keep high-value items safe. United’s service provides the same kind of security for rural residents who might need it more than urbanites. According to video security company Blink, rural states suffer from higher rates of package theft. Those losses, which average $250, can add up, especially considering one in five homeowners have reported being a victim of so-called porch piracy.
Nearly 40% of stolen packages cost consumers $200 to $500, while another 10% cost more than $500. Packages valued at less than $150 tend to be stolen at rates under 8% and those boxes are arriving in droves thanks to easy online shopping from major retailers and of course Amazon.
The online shopping giant has also built lockers it calls “Hub” in apartment buildings, which accept packages from any company – not just Amazon.
Other retailers have stepped in as delivery centers, hoping customers buy something when they stop by to retrieve their packages. 7-Eleven, for instance, launched its own locker program at 200 stores in the U.S. and Canada in 2015, after working with Amazon as early as 2011.
In the long run, though, it makes sense for an existing retailer to take over that duty, especially as brick-and-mortar traffic falls due to online shopping. Progressive Grocer highlighted the importance of the grocery store experience, saying that stores should strive to be “solution centers.” United’s effort to keep packages safe for customers should give them that leg up over competitors and increase brand loyalty.