TORONTO – As more Canadians turn to online shopping, courier operator FedEx hopes an agreement to open shipping centres at Home Hardware Stores Ltd. will help it grab a larger piece of the growing e-commerce market.
Federal Express Canada Ltd. said Wednesday that the centres, which serve as mini-hubs, will offer more “points of access” for customers to drop off and pick up parcels.
The new FedEx locations will look very similar to the Canada Post outlets that are tucked into stores operated by Shoppers Drug Mart, Jean Coutu (TSX:PJC.A) and others such as convenience stores and news stands across the country. They would operate similar to the FedEx storefronts that are situated primarily in urban centres.
“It offers us opportunity to expand into areas where we might be a little under-penetrated,” said FedEx spokesman James Anderson in an interview.
“Smaller stores, or stores in rural areas, are something that we find very intriguing and we’re certainly interested in engaging.”
FedEx’s strategic move comes as Canadian retailers place a greater emphasis on sales made through their websites.
Companies like Canadian Tire Corp. (TSX:CTC.A) and Hudson’s Bay Co. (TSX:HBC) are in the midst of creating new web portals designed to make it easier for users to shop online.
More retailers are also opening distribution centres within their stores, allowing shoppers to select and pay for their items online before picking them up at the store.
Home-improvement retailer Home Hardware has about 1,100 locations throughout its national network of independently owned stores and building centres, though the company hasn’t said how many owner-operators it expects will choose to house full-service FedEx shipping centres within their location.
Anderson said FedEx estimates a “first-wave” will have more than 100 Home Hardware locations participating in the partnership.
A Home Hardware spokesman said in an email that the company — headquartered in St. Jacobs near Kitchener, Ont. — will work with the owner-dealers to explain how the FedEx partnership could benefit their businesses and their customers.
The shift in consumer shopping habits also caught the attention of Canada Post, which has dramatically shifted its priorities towards parcel services as it looks for new ways to stay relevant when fewer Canadians are sending letters through the mail.
The Crown corporation has also launched a program for small businesses designed to make it easier to ship online orders through the postal service. It has also announced in December that it plans to phase out the remaining door-to-door residential delivery in urban centres over within five years, in favour of communal mail boxes.