Tue, 21 Sep 2021 - 17:03
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Why it's time to order your Christmas presents

Australians have done an amazing job adapting to COVID and to lockdowns.


We heartily loathe these restrictions on our normal freedoms, but we have found some clever ways of getting on with life.


One important way we have all adapted is by moving to buy a lot more things online.  Businesses and customers have very quickly changed the way they do things.


Across the Australian economy, the amount of online purchasing, or eCommerce, has risen almost 25 per cent in the 12 months to 31 August 2021.


But once you and I order our goods online, they need to get to us. And this is where Australia Post is doing such an important job. 


Both in last year’s lockdowns, and in the current lockdowns across NSW, Victoria and the ACT, the volume of parcels carried by Australia Post has exploded.


Australia Post’s normal peak time of the year for parcels is Christmas. In December 2020, Australia Post delivered a record 52 million parcels for the month.


But this year’s lockdowns have seen Australia Post smash through that record 


The volume of parcels that Australia Post delivered in NSW over August this year is almost 20 per cent higher than December last year.


I understand that some Australians have been frustrated by parcel deliveries taking longer than they would like.


But the real story is how Australia Post has kept getting parcels delivered even while volumes have jumped so high.


At Christmas time, for example, Australia Post normally employs an extra four to five thousand staff to help meet the peak.


For the first few weeks of the latest peak they have not had that extra support. However, once it became clear, a few weeks ago, what the new volumes were and how long they were likely to persist for, Australia Post brought forward the recruitment of temporary staff, and around 4,000 additional workers have now started to join the front line.


Another big problem for Australia Post has been the direct impact of COVID, particularly with staff being unavailable for work because of having to isolate. Across July and August this year, Australia Post lost the equivalent of 22,500 workdays: on a typical day the number of staff in isolation as casual or close contacts ranged from 300 to nearly 1,000.


A number of times Australia Post’s has had to close major distribution centres where parcels are sorted, including the key Sydney International Gateway, and the Thomastown distribution centre in Melbourne.


There have also been big challenges in moving parcels around the country. Usually Qantas and Virgin have hundreds of scheduled flights around the country each week; with that number down by up to ninety per cent, that makes it much harder to get parcels on planes.


Australia Post has worked very hard to keep parcels moving, including some steps that would not normally be necessary, such as the three-day pause on pick-ups from merchants earlier this month. 


Thankfully the pause worked to greatly reduce the backlog within Australia Post’s sorting centres and the company is now back to more normal pick-up schedules.


Just as Australia Post has made some changes during COVID, so have the buying habits of Australians evolved during the various lockdowns. 


Based on the mix of parcels being shipped by Australia Post, early in a lockdown consumers purchase office equipment and fitness and exercise gear to work, and workout, from home.


As the lockdown grinds on, consumers shift to other categories. For example, in the past two months online purchases of pet supplies are up by 39 per cent, and baby supplies and athleisure up by 23 per cent. Furniture and homewares have also seen big jumps.


While Australia Post is doing a remarkable job, with lockdown-driven parcel volumes expected to stay very high for weeks yet, it will be harder than usual to pick up the pace for Christmas.


That is why, as The Age reported recently, Australia Post’s acting CEO Rodney Boys has encouraged Australians to do their Christmas shopping earlier than usual.


Throughout the lockdowns, Australia Post has been there to keep parcels moving and keep Australians supplied with what we need.


With your help, they can get parcels delivered in time for Christmas too—so we can all have the celebration we deserve after two tough years.