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Deliveries to Drop-Off Points Emerge in U.K.

[May 26] Two competitive services are starting in the U.K. to enable e-commerce customers to take delivery of goods when they are away from home.

Dropzone1 this week signed agreements that secure the participation of Jet petrol stations and Londis and Spar convenience stores in trials of its "dropzone" service.

Meanwhile, Collectpoint is promising to launch its own, similar service on July 1 at over 1,000 locations in the U.K.

"We are delighted to have the support of such trusted household names for the trial we will be running in the Reading area in July," said Dropzone1 Director Lynda Wallace.

"We are in the final stages of negotiations with other major petrol companies and suitable late-opening outlets and we are confident we will have at least 5,000 Dropzones operating across the country by the end of the summer," Wallace added.

However, the competition looks threatening. Collectpoint plans to run a major TV and Internet based advertising campaign and is keen to sign up many more operators. It says the aim is to cover the U.K. within 4 months with a target of 8000+ outlets.

The race to be first-to-market with drop-off services in the U.K. is still very much open.

"Everyone from marketers and Internet analysts to the retail specialist Verdict Research has been saying that the absence of convenient home delivery is the Achilles heel of online shopping," said Dropzone1's Lynda Wallace, noting that Web users are often those who are least likely to be home to take delivery.

Jim Doyle, Collectpoint's founder and chief executive officer, said his company's service presented an ultimate "all win" situation, whereby the problems of the customer and those of the e-tailer were resolved.

"By offering the service, every Collectpoint outlet will attract a greater throughput of customers -- many of them new -- and will therefore stand to gain from increased trade."

There is some irony in the concept that small outlets will benefit by serving as drop-off points for merchandise purchased online, but the message is clear. Less clear is whether small corner stores in cramped locations will have sufficient storage space if the business really takes off.



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