They might be at their busiest, but post office owners say Christmas is their least profitable time of year, as they juggle increased demands and impatient customers.
A 30 per cent increase in online shopping has created Australia Post’s busiest Christmas ever, prompting outlets across the country to hire thousands of extra staff.
But despite delivering more than two million parcels a day (or 2700 per minute) over the peak period, Australia Post licensees say Christmas is their least profitable time of year.
It’s also the most stressful as a flood of anxious customers demand help with packaging or insist on collecting parcels that haven’t arrived yet.
Post office owner Angela Cramp, chairwoman of the Licensed Post Office Group, told The New Daily Christmas was “not economically viable” for licensees because of the payment structure with Australia Post for parcel sorting and delivery, plus tight margins on their most popular Christmas item – Christmas stamps.
Ms Cramp said the country’s 2900 licensees made very little profit on the 65 cent Christmas stamps, and barely recovered costs for parcel delivery.
“The busier we are, the more work we do, the more money we lose,” Ms Cramp said.
“We are underpaid for delivering millions of parcels across Australia and not making a profit.
“It’s hard when you know at the end of it we have no money to pay our bills and have Christmas, and we only get a couple of days off before we have to start all over again.”
Australia Post offices have hired an extra 3000 staff to deal with the Christmas rush and some have extended their weekly trading hours and delivered over weekends.
Australia Post group chief operating officer Bob Black said one in three consumers expected to do more Christmas shopping online this year than last Christmas.
“Australian shoppers will spend on average $200 each buying gifts online this Christmas – and our research shows that we love buying for others first before treating ourselves,” Mr Black said.
Ms Cramp said Christmas was time consuming because customers who were not regular parcel senders or receivers needed one-on-one assistance.
Small mail rooms have been crammed with huge parcels ranging from bikes to bar stools and crates of wine.
“Everyone starts getting nervous that their parcels are not turning up and as soon as they get an email that says the goods have been despatched they come in and ask for it,” Ms Cramp said.
“We go on a big hunt looking for it and we can spend 10 minutes until they show us the email and we realise the parcel is still in transit.
“There is a desperation factor as people insist there should be a parcel there.
“Some parcels are sent to ‘mum and dad’ or ‘Bethany and Abel’ without surnames and we have to hunt through 500 parcels by address to find it for the customer.”
Staff also had to provide services in bill paying, banking, travel documents and selling gifts.
“When a little old lady comes in and doesn’t know how to pay the bills or wants to send a parcel to the grandchildren we help with that. But we are only paid $3.64 per day for Community Service Provision – to be the face of Australia Post,” Ms Cramp said.
“Three dollars a day does not cover four hours of unpaid work.”
Change on the horizon
An Australia Post spokesperson said in a statement the government-owned business was in the process of finalising a review of the licensing payments scheme in consultation with representative groups.
“We are absolutely committed to supporting our licensees to run sustainable businesses and have recently announced a number of changes including:
- An increase in the annual minimum payment to licensees by more than 25 per cent to $40,000
- An increase in the base payments for our Bank@Post service by up to 50 per cent, ensuring licensees are more fairly rewarded for the important work they do (effective January 1)
- LPO commission indexation changes to better reflect the work they do. Commission rates now indexed to the General Retail Industry Award (GRIA) instead of CPI resulting in an additional 1.6 per cent increase back dated to July 1, 2018.”