September 3, 2014, 5:14 PM

UPS plans to offer pickup points for online orders

The delivery service is testing the concept in New York City and Chicago.

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The leading shipping service for top online retailers in North America plans to introduce a service that will allow consumers to pick up their online orders from lockers in retail locations.

United Parcel Service of North America Inc. began testing the service, called the UPS Access Point network, in July in New York City and Chicago, and plans to roll it out early next year, Alan Gershenhorn, chief commercial officer, told reporters today at a briefing in Louisville, KY.

“Consumers don’t want to wait around for a delivery,” Gershenhorn said. “It’s easier to go to access points to pick up an item or make a return.” 26% of U.S. online shoppers say they want to receive deliveries somewhere other than their home, Gershenhorn added, citing data from a comScore Inc. study.

The tests are taking place in highly populated areas, including neighborhoods with many apartment buildings, a spokeswoman says. Consumers who live in multi-unit buildings without doormen frequently do not feel it is secure to have an online order left in the building lobby. The locations in Chicago are in the north and western sections of the city and nearby suburbs; in New York, they are in Bronx, with the test moving into Brooklyn, the spokeswoman says. She says the lockers are located in stores that are open early in the morning, late at night or on weekends.

UPS has operated a similar service in Europe since its 2012 acquisition of Kiala, a Belgian company that provided pickup points for purchases in France, Spain and the Benelux countries. UPS subsequently expanded the service to the United Kingdom and Germany.

There now are nearly 12,000 pickup points in Europe, mostly in local shops, such as convenience stores and dry cleaners.

In North America, UPS will use its 4,400 existing bricks-and-mortar locations as points consumers can designate for picking up items ordered online. The company will also sign up other retail locations to host lockers where consumers will pick up their items, either inside their stores or outside of them. UPS will send a shopper a code she can use to open the locker, Gershenhorn said.

In addition, he said, the 10 million members of the UPS My Choice program will be able to go online to redirect a parcel to an access point. My Choice, introduced in 2011, offers free alerts by text messages and e-mail of when a delivery is likely to arrive. For a fee, a My Choice member can reschedule a delivery or redirect it to a different location.

Such major retailers as Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have experimented with lockers at retail locations where consumers can pick up online orders. While not referring to those retailers by name, Gershenhorn said tests of lockers for order pickup have not generated a lot of traffic, and said UPS believes it’s better positioned to make this work.

Amazon is the No. 1 online retailer by web sales in the 2014 Top 500 and Walmart.com No. 4

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