Online shoppers had parcels delivered to their door on a Sunday for the first time this week.

Royal Mail has launched the service in Oxfordshire for customers of shops that have signed up for the seven-day delivery service.

Parcels are sent out from the Parcelforce depot at Kidlington, with customers alerted by text message 30 to 90 minutes before delivery.

The new service, which helps Royal Mail compete with private delivery firms such as TNT, has been welcomed by Boswell’s department store, in Broad Street, Oxford.

It has just revamped its website to allow customers to buy online and hopes to boost sales by £150,000 a year.

Frank Smith, head of retail operations, said: “The possibility of being able to offer customers Sunday delivery is very helpful and well-timed for us.

“It’s a problem for a lot of people that if they’re not at home from Monday to Friday parcels can’t be delivered and they have to go to the depot to collect them.

“It’s all about customer convenience and has got to be good for our business and good for the Royal Mail.”

The new arrangement has been agreed with the Communcation Workers’ Union and Sunday working will be voluntary.

Stephen Dallas, Parcelforce postal worker and regional representative for the CWU, said: “We’re covering 97 per cent of Oxfordshire with these new Sunday deliveries.

“We want to provide a better service because we’re in competition with private firms.

“Our members have responded positively to having the option to work extra hours at the weekend.”

Peter Fuller, Parcelforce’s operations director, said: “We all expect to be able to go to our supermarket and buy potatoes on a Sunday and this is the same thing.

“As with any new product launch it has started quietly but will ramp up. More of our business clients are asking us for Sunday delivery, because their customers are asking them.”

Retail expert Dr Jonathan Reynolds, academic director at the Oxford Institute of Retail Management at Oxford’s Said Business School, said: “This will provide better customer service, in that if customers place an online order on Saturday they want it delivered the next day, rather than having to wait until Monday.

“Royal Mail wants to make sure it can keep up with the white-van delivery firms. If shoppers are working during the week, Sunday is the day they’re most likely to be at home to receive a delivery.”

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