Far from still being devoted to just paper post and parcel deliveries, recent strategic choices by some European Post Offices signal a changing role and a desire to tap into fast-growing markets and sectors which have, traditionally, been occupied by LSPs. A couple of recent examples of this come from Southern Europe.
In January 2022, Spanish post office Correos launched Correos Frío to offer temperature-controlled shipments by using isothermal boxes with features including monitoring of temperature and humidity in real-time. The solution is aimed both at B2B and B2C customers, with special attention to the pharma and food sectors.
In terms of the pharma vertical, Correos said it will meet laboratories and distributors’ needs to deliver pharma, healthcare and cosmetic products to hospitals, clinics, or health centres. The service will also allow hospital pharmacies to deliver products directly to patients’ homes.
Regarding the food sector, Correos Frío will offer solutions to facilitate wholesalers, supermarkets, local retail businesses and food markets with the distribution of fresh products. Additionally, in terms of B2C deliveries, the company will create a specific service for companies in the e-commerce and gourmet sector in need of temperature-controlled transport in the Peninsula, including Portugal and Andorra.
Correos Frío’s new services together with the launch of Correos Logística earlier in January 2022, which is focused on e-commerce services including value-added ones, show the Spanish post office’s desire for continuous expansion into the e-commerce logistics market whilst also tapping into fast-growing vertical sectors.
On the one hand, according to a March 2022 report by ReportLinker, there is a major growth potential for online pharmacies in Southern European countries such as Italy and Spain. The same report states that the online pharmacy market in Europe was dominated by EU-5 with the highest revenue share of 59.5% in 2021, with expectations that the European e-pharmacy market will grow at a CAGR of over 17.6% during the period 2022–2027.
Also, regarding grocery deliveries, in Spain, the number of online food and beverage shoppers is estimated to grow at a 2019-2024 CAGR of 7.7% to reach 11.6m in 2024 and more than 12m in 2025 according to Statista.
It is not by chance that in February 2022, Amazon.es also announced the expansion of its Fresh service (delivered by Prime) to Valencia and the surrounding areas. This has added to the service launched in Madrid and Barcelona in 2021, following the company’s objective of serving millions of Amazon Prime members in Spain.
Targeting fast-growing logistics markets seem to be the focus of the Italian post office too. In March 2022, Poste Italiane (Poste) announced the signing of an agreement for the acquisition of a majority stake in healthcare logistics specialist Plurima. The Italian company is involved in hospital logistics and management services for public and private hospitals, including specialised transportation of biological samples. Matteo Del Fante, Chief Executive Officer, and General Manager of Poste commented that the acquisition is part of the company’s 24 SI strategy envisaging a focus on its contract logistics business with the aim of completing the transition to a wide-ranging logistics model.
Overall, the move breaks away from the express and small parcels sector that Poste has traditionally served. However, it is justified by the company’s strategy. Additionally, according to Ti, in 2021 Italy was one of the fastest-growing contract logistics market in Europe and it will be amongst the five major markets in the region in 2026 according to forecasts. Furthermore, according to Fabio Mioli, Managing Director of South Europe for UPS Healthcare, innovations in the pharma sector also in Italy are leading to strong growth of biological and specialised medicines. These require specific management logistics, including compliance with stringent storage requirements at even very low temperatures, attention to materials and packaging components, and regulatory compliance. Thus, UPS Healthcare is also investing in network expansion and cold-chain transport services both nationally and internationally. The plan includes the expansion of its specialised temperature-controlled fleet to five more regions of Italy, namely Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Trentino-Alto Adige – which are added to Sicily, Calabria, Lombardy.
Poste also stated that it aims to tap into the opportunities linked to a greater trend towards outsourcing hospital logistics and micro-logistics. For this purpose, it will leverage the experience gained with the COVID-19 vaccine delivery, carried out through its SDA Courier company. It is worth wondering if, like its Spanish counterpart, the Italian Post Office will eventually turn its attention to the fast-growing B2C pharma shipments, as well as the online grocery segment, where, in Italy, there are players including Deliveroo Hop or Glovo. Should the company make that move, it would be also favoured by a stronger proprietary online payment system further to the February 2022 LIS Holding acquisition.
Although this is still unclear at this point, it will be interesting to see which other strategies post offices worldwide implement to capture more of the value chain. Watch this space!