Global parcel volumes soar by nearly 30% in 2020

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Technology solutions provider Pitney Bowes has released the full findings from its latest Parcel Shipping Index report, featuring 2020 data from 13 markets around the world.

According to the index, global parcel volumes reached 131.2 billion in 2020, equating to 4,160 parcels shipped per second – an increase of 27% year-on-year, and the equivalent of 34 parcels generated per person, on average.

Looking ahead, the index estimates that parcel volumes could reach 232 billion or as high as 303 billion by 2026. The most likely outcome is that parcel volume will double in the next five years to reach 266 billion in 2026, with 11% CAGR from 2021-26.

Key UK parcel volume and revenue findings were:

  • Five billion parcels were generated in the UK, up 33% from 3.8 billion in 2019.
  • 160 parcels were generated every second, or around 14 million each day.
  • The UK generated the highest parcels per capita in the Index at 74, an increase from 56 in 2019.
  • Prior to the pandemic, volume grew by an average of 8%. In 2020 the growth rate more than quadrupled from the previous year, from 7% y-o-y growth in 2019 to 33% in 2020.
  • The UK saw the highest increase in carrier revenue of all 13 countries in the Index, up 37% to US$22.2bn (£17bn).
  • Revenue per parcel in the UK increased for the first time since 2016, reaching US$4.40.
  • The top five carriers in the UK account for 76% of UK parcel shipments by volume.
  • Forecast anticipates UK parcel volume to rise to 5.4-6 billion in 2021 – 10-14% year-over-year growth – and is expected to reach 7.5-8.5 billion in 2026.

Now in its sixth year, the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index reveals parcel volume increased across all regions in 2020 with the exception of India. China remains the largest market by volume, with parcel numbers reaching 83.4 billion in 2020 or 2,643 parcels shipped every second. Based on forecasts from Pitney Bowes, China is expected to become the first country in the index to reach 100 billion parcels by volume in one year, which is likely to happen in 2021. 2020 was the first year US parcel volume increased at a faster rate than China since the inception of the Shipping Index.

Carrier parcel revenue increased across all 13 countries in 2020, collectively reaching US$429.5bn, up 22% since 2019.  The USA remains the market with the highest carrier revenue of all regions in the Index. Countries including the USA, Brazil and Australia saw their more established carriers lose market share to competitors.

The latest Index introduces a new performance measure, revenue per parcel. Tracking this datapoint provides insight into carriers’ ability to respond profitably to changing market conditions. France generated the highest revenue per parcel in the report at US$9.30. China’s revenue per parcel was the lowest at US$1.50.

Key findings from the latest Parcel Shipping Index include:

  • Parcel volume reached 131.2 billion in 2020, up 27% from 103.2 billion.
  • 4,160 parcels shipped per second compared to 3,248 in 2019.
  • Parcel revenue reached US$429.5bn, up 22% since 2019
  • Highest CAGR 2014-20 for parcel volume was generated by China at 35% followed by Brazil at 18% and India at 15%
  • Highest CAGR 2014-20 for parcel revenue was generated by China at 27% followed by India at 16% and the USA and UK, both with 11%
  • The top three markets by revenue – USA at $171.4bn, China at US$127.5bn and Japan at US$33.3bn – represented 77% of global parcel revenue in 2020.
  • The UK saw the highest increase in carrier revenue, up 37% year over year to US$22.2bn.
  • France generated the highest revenue per parcel at US$9.30.
  • China remains the largest market in terms of parcel volume, reaching 83.4 billion, up 31% from 63.5 billion, followed by the USA at 20.2 billion and Japan at 9.1 billion.
  • The USA remained the market with the highest carrier revenue, reaching US$171.4bn, an increase of 29% year over year.
  • Brazil experienced the highest year-over-year parcel volume growth at 46% to 1.2 billion parcels, followed by the USA at 37% and UK at 33%.
  • Japan saw an increase in parcel volume for the first time in three years, with volume reaching 9.1 billion, up from 9 billion in 2019.
  • India’s parcel volume decreased but carrier revenue continued to grow, reaching US$4.5bn, up from US$4.4 the previous year.

Jason Dies, EVP and president, Sending Technology Solutions, Pitney Bowes, said, “For six years, the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index has tracked monumental change across the shipping and logistics industry, reflecting shifting consumer behaviors and carriers’ ability to adapt at scale. E-commerce has become fundamental to our lives, and the staggering parcel volume revealed in the latest Index reflects this.

“For the world’s carriers, as essential service providers 2020 was a transformative year which tested their investments in people, infrastructure and digital capabilities to the limit. The Parcel Shipping Index accurately tracks and compares their performance during one of the hardest years they’ve ever faced. The Index has never been more widely anticipated or more relevant.”

To view the complete index, click here. 

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About Author


Dan originally joined Parcel and Postal Technology International in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As online editor, he now produces daily content for the website and supports the editor with the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest technological developments, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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