Green Deal ZES MRA: How is Parcls getting on?

How parcel pick up hubs help reduce the number of transport movements

Two years ago, dozens of organizations in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area pledged to commit themselves to clean and smart city logistics. What about their efforts now? The Board speaks to signatories of the GDZES MRA. Part 1 of a series: Parcls. This startup is now making significant progress in Amsterdam with six neighborhood package pick up hubs. The company thus contributes to a significant decrease in the number of traffic movements with delivery vans.

Thousands of Amsterdammers have their packages delivered to one of the six so-called city hubs. From there they have a choice: pick up their package themselves, or have it delivered. “The concept is actually very simple,” says founder and owner Luc van Gompel. “We are still refining the business model.”

Parcls started in 2017 with a parcel pick up hub at the Ceintuurbaan in Amsterdam. A fifth and sixth parcel hub were opened this year, thanks in part to an investment by the Amsterdam Climate and Energy Fund (AKEF), Rabobank and private investors (article in Dutch).

Profitable stores

Paying customers was Parcls’ initial business model: someone could have their parcels delivered at home for a fee or take out a subscription and thus receive priority for collection. “But that turned out not to work, people are used to not having to pay for the handling of their parcels. Nevertheless, our stores are now moving towards profitability. This is because carriers are willing to pay for our services. It turns out to be difficult for them to properly organize that last mile and we can do that.” Food companies Boerschappen, De Krat and Uit de Keuken van Maass also supply the Parcls hubs.

Parcls does not yet have a contract with PostNL, they only do business with their own parcel hubs — often counters in supermarkets or tobacco shops. Van Gompel: “For us, the packages are our core business and that concept appears to work well. Carriers are also happy with us because we can also handle certain questions from their customers.”

Also outside Amsterdam

In the coming years, Parcls wants to expand to twelve or thirteen branches within the Amsterdam ring road and also open parcel hubs in Haarlem and Almere, among others. “We aim for one shop per 50,000 inhabitants, who also live near each other with a certain density. People in a radius of up to 900 meters are likely to pick up their package from us. We noticed that after a while, people are willing to cycle further. Another condition is that we are on a main road, with good loading and unloading facilities on the sidewalk.”

People pick up an average of 1.6 parcels at a time from Parcls, says Van Gompel. “I find that very interesting: sometimes you have packages that you want very quickly, but sometimes it is also fine to wait.”

It is difficult to estimate the exact impact of Parcls. It is certain that the number of transport movements with diesel buses is decreasing, and so are the emissions. After all, when a van drives to a point in a postcode area to deliver ten parcels for that area, that saves nine braking times, accelerating nine times and standing still on the street nine times — which also hinders other traffic.

Clean and smart city logistics

In 2019 Parcls signed the Green Deal Zero Emissie Stadslogistiek MRA. “Of course, what we do fits in perfectly with the ambitions of the Green Deal: clean and smart city logistics. We participated to get into the network, so that we can work together better in the chain.” Van Gompel finds this collaboration a bit disappointing. “I think the role of larger parties is still predictable, focused on their own interests. Smaller parties would like to work together, but can achieve less. And of course corona made it difficult to really get to know each other.”

According to Van Gompel, clear government policy can accelerate. “If municipalities make it clear: in 2025 we will be emission-free, then all parties know where they stand. Whether you are DHL or a subcontractor. I think that the municipality of Amsterdam is now tackling this by requiring that trucks and delivery vans be emission-free by 2025. And, for example, by reducing the number of parking spaces on the street and thus the number of car movements in the center. But besides the rules, you can also get things moving with subsidies. More direction and decisiveness is needed on this subject.”

He cites Rotterdam, where a subsidy scheme was recently created for sustainable initiatives. “Thanks to this arrangement, we can now also run a store in Rotterdam for a year. They contribute to our costs, so that we can investigate whether there is a market for Parcls there too.”

On October 12 there will be another live GDZES MRA meetup. Do you have topic suggestions for the substantive program or do you also want to sign the GDZES MRA? Send an email to our colleague Richard Hoving.

Interview by Mirjam Streefkerk
Photo: Parcls

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