The number of home deliveries is expected to double in the event of a Coronavirus epidemic as shoppers seek to avoid crowded stores, according to ParcelHero.
The courier business has forecast a 100% increase in home deliveries and has suggested an increase has already started.
However, ParcelHero is warning that the increase in home deliveries will transfer the threat of contracting the virus from the shops to the shoppers' doorsteps. It called on retailers of all sizes to collaborate with delivery and courier partners to change their protocols to ensure driver and customer safety.
David Jinks, ParcelHero's head of consumer research, says that shoppers need to know they are not removed from risk by shopping online instead of in-store. He also stressed that drivers need to be reassured, particularly when delivering to households in self-isolation.
He said: "That means the traditional way retailers and couriers deliver items has to change. Everyone needs to know what the procedures are to minimise the risk of transmission. Personal contact and, in particular, the use of handheld electronic signature pads are potential flashpoints."
Some retailers and parcel services have suspended the need for a signature in cases where the customer has notified them that they are self-isolating.
"[This] has not been widely publicised," David said. "And it's clearly not ideal in the longer term.
"It should be made possible for the receiver to sign online when the items are delivered, as is widely practiced in some EU countries."
Having drivers come into peoples' homes is another potential flashpoint. Some retailers, including Waitrose, have confirmed that they will continue to deliver to customers who are self-isolating on the basis that they can leave the items in a designated area.
David Jinks added: "Many shoppers probably have alternative delivery points registered with couriers, for if they are not going to be in, such as a porch, shed or garage. Such areas might need to be shared to all retailers and drivers as potential drop-off points for both food and parcel deliveries to minimise any need for contact."
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