August 10, 2023

Historic drop in China volumes curbs global parcel growth


A historic decline in China parcel-shipping volumes brought global growth to a virtual standstill last year and will curb global activity through 2028, according to Pitney Bowes Inc.’s (NYSE: PBI) annual global shipping index published Wednesday.

For years the hottest parcel shipping market among the 13 countries surveyed, China experienced a sharp drop-off in 2022 due to a weak recovery from the COVID pandemic. China’s volumes last year grew just 2%, the lowest in its history. This compares with annualized and compounded volume growth of 23% a year from 2017 through 2022. 

China’s parcel volumes had maintained a double-digit growth rate every year between 2013 and 2021, according to the index, published Wednesday. However, annualized growth is expected to slow to 7% between 2023 and 2028.

The sharp slowdown in China, the largest parcel volume market, had a knock-on effect worldwide. Global parcel volume reached 161 billion in 2022, a mere 1% increase year over year. About 5,100 parcels were shipped every second in the 13 countries surveyed, the index found. 

It will also have an effect on future growth. From 2023 to 2028, global volumes will grow by 6% compounded annually, down from 8% forecast last year from 2022 through 2027, the index forecast. Volumes will reach 225 billion parcels by 2028. Still, China is expected to grow faster than the overall index.

Global parcel volume had risen 150% from 2016 through 2022, according to the index. India generated the fastest volume growth during the period, while China experienced the fastest revenue growth.

In 2022, global parcel revenue declined by 1% to $485 billion, impacted by the U.S. dollar’s increase in value relative to other currencies represented in the index. The U.S. led in carrier revenue with a 7% increase. Besides the U.S., only Brazil, Australia and India posted year-over-year revenue gains. China posted the lowest revenue per parcel at $1.40 per piece. Canada was the highest at $9.80 per piece, followed by the U.S. at $9.30.

In five countries including the U.S., there was an 8% to 12% gap between parcel growth and higher e-commerce growth, Pitney Bowes found. This is due to the types of purchases that don’t require parcel shipping, such as grocery orders. It also reflects the proliferation of alternate delivery methods. The other seven countries had a more aligned ratio as online purchases more frequently utilized traditional carrier-based shipping methods, the report found.

The index tracked domestic and international outbound shipments from the respective countries to international destinations, according to Vijay Ramachandran, vice president, vice president, go-to-market enablement and experience at Pitney Bowes. Same-day deliveries, items requiring special handling and carry-out items like food were excluded, he said.

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