China’s logistics industry has been in tumult as the country begins a return to normalcy: Hive Box pisses off customers; courier services raise prices; and SF Express launches a food delivery service.
Here’s a roundup of recent headlines.
China’s largest package locker operator faces user boycott
Hive Box, China’s largest self-service package locker operator backed by Chinese courier giant SF Express has come under fire for charging extra fees for delayed parcel pickup.
Hive Box announced (in Chinese) on April 29 that users who failed to pick up parcels from their lockers within 12 hours will be charged RMB 0.5 ($0.07) for every additional 12 hour increment, capped at a maximum of RMB 3.
Users immediately began protesting, with thousands of users commenting on a state media Weibo post, declaring that they would stop using the service if the new rule was implemented. Several communities in Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing warned they would suspend the use of Hive Box lockers.
User discontent rose futher after Hive Box’s parent company announced a merger with China Post’s package locker unit on May 6. The move gives the Shenzhen-based firm a bigger monopoly with a nearly 70% market share.
Hive Box responded in a Weibo post published on May 9 that the fee is intended to help the firm better serve users. The company said that it plans to encourage early pickup by offering cash incentives but made no mention of a change to its original plan to implement late fees.
Self-service parcel lockers evolved as a way to increase delivery efficiency, allowing deliverymen to offload parcels at lockers instead of making time-consuming deliveries to individual addresses.
While some users liked the self-service model, others preferred delivery to their doorsteps and complained about worsening user experience. In most cases, delivery workers left parcels at such lockers for their own convenience, without gaining approval from consumers.
Price hike from major couriers
Over the past week, China’s major logistics companies including STO Express, YTO Express, Best Express, and Yunda Express announced that they are raising prices, citing rising costs as a result of reinstated highway toll fees.
The news drew ire from many users who pointed out that the company was using toll fees as an excuse, but it never lowered prices when the toll was lifted three months ago.
Similarly, SF Express increased its prices for international parcels from countries like China, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia sent to Europe, the Americas, and other Asian countries.
Cainiao Network, Alibaba Group’s logistics unit, has launched an international postage service for global shipments of essential items such as surgical masks to more than 20 countries and regions globally, including the US, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
China’s logistics industry is gradually returning to normal. In April, more than 6.25 billion parcels were delivered in the country, up 27% year on year, according to data from China Post Bureau.
SF Express rolls out food delivery business
Chinese express delivery and logistics giant SF Express launched a new platform to focus on food delivery services for enterprises, triggering speculation about yet another big player in China’s competitive food delivery market.
Dubbed Fengshi, the service is currently accessible via Wechat mini program. It offers delivery from more than 100 restaurants including popular restaurant chains Pizza Hut, Yoshinoya, and Domino’s,
Instead of a move to expand to the food delivery market, the company said to local media that the service was incubated as an internal program and had started as a way to meet food delivery demands of its own team.
Although designed as a food delivery app for corporate group meal reservations, the service also supports small batch orders, allowing for individual order placements.
With its massive delivery network, SF Express is a strong potential competitor in China’s food delivery, dominated by duopoly Meituan Dianping and Alibaba’s Ele.me.