2020: An unprecedented year
As the COVID-19 pandemic took root in Canada in the early spring of 2020, everything changed for Canadians and Canadian businesses, seemingly overnight. Lockdowns and restrictions kept millions to their homes. Daily public health briefings became compelling viewing and healthcare workers were lauded as heroes. Canadians and retailers migrated online and the broader economy contracted.
In this crisis, Canadians called on Canada Post – and we answered the call. Our employees stepped up when Canadians needed them most.
While the federal government officially listed Canada Post as an essential service and function during the pandemic, Canadians themselves found it essential, too – as their shopping habits dramatically and permanently shifted online.
This overview explains just how essential we became. How we dramatically changed the way we work. How we kept Canadians informed about our changes – and our challenges. It was an unprecedented year – and it tested us.
Keeping employees and Canadians safe
Throughout COVID-19, the safety of our employees and Canadians was our top priority. We followed the guidance of the Public Health Agency of Canada and local public health agencies. We are grateful that our unions and Local Joint Health and Safety Committees were so dedicated to employee safety. Our team leaders were just as dedicated. They communicated countless safety changes to employees and reinforced compliance with frequent reminders.
Our preventative measures began early. Thousands of our frontline employees stayed in the workplace to serve Canadians, while our administrative employees began to work from home whenever possible. To keep them safe, we quickly adopted physical distancing in our plants, depots and retail post offices, distributed protective equipment and took other measures. We changed hours and procedures in our post offices and made changes in delivery that minimized contact between our employees and customers at the door. Given our many challenges, we suspended service guarantees.
In the spring, the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business took a snapshot of consumers’ trust in selected brands during the pandemic. Their Brand Trust Index named Canada Post the Most Trusted Brand in Canada – a sign that Canadians appreciated our efforts in difficult circumstances.
We also recognized the impact that changes beyond the workplace were having on employees’ personal lives, for example, the closing of schools and daycares. Soon we were providing special paid leave for child care and elder care for employees who couldn’t work due to family responsibilities, and we provided paid quarantine leave for employees 70 and older, those with pre-existing conditions or considered high-risk, and those required to isolate at home. These measures avoided, for example, having employees make difficult choices that could put themselves or others at risk.
Helping Canadians understand delays and safety measures
COVID-19 meant we were navigating a new reality. Christmas-level volumes of parcels arrived in our network in April 2020 and stayed high into 2021 as lockdown measures were reinstated. As a result, Canadian consumers and commercial customers experienced major delays in parcel deliveries right across our network. We helped them understand why – explaining our record volumes and the impact of safety protocols, such as maintaining physical distancing in parcel processing plants and delivery depots that were never designed for keeping employees two metres apart. Despite never wanting to disappoint customers, we did not compromise on safety.
In early October, we anticipated that our parcel capacity could be overwhelmed at Christmas. We scaled up by adding more than 4,000 temporary seasonal employees, delivering on weekends and working with major customers to manage the flow of incoming parcels. We also advised Canadians to shop as early as possible to avoid disappointment, and repeated that message into December.
We broke records for parcel delivery but, regrettably, still had a significant volume of Christmas parcels to deliver in the New Year. In this way and others, 2020 tested us.
Changing needs drove a massive shift in our volumes
Canadians’ changing needs drove Parcels volumes up like never before, while eroding mail volumes significantly for several reasons. It was a massive shift.
From mid-April to the end of 2020, we delivered one million or more parcels a day for 181 consecutive delivery days. During the two weeks ending on Christmas Eve, our employees delivered nearly 20 million parcels to Canadians – including a record 2.4 million parcels on December 21 alone.
Domestic Parcels volumes were 30.9 per cent higher compared to 2019. We saw a 52-per-cent increase in Parcels revenue from small businesses in 2020, compared to 2019, and an even greater increase during the holiday season.
Volumes of Transaction Mail – mostly letters, bills and statements – eroded in 2020 by 10.5 per cent compared to 2019, as households and businesses increasingly turned to digital communication.
Businesses use marketing mail to bring customers in the doors of local stores and restaurants. With COVID-19 restrictions, many businesses reduced their advertising spending or moved to digital channels. As a result, Direct Marketing volumes declined by 27.7 per cent compared to 2019. As the economy builds back, we expect Direct Marketing to grow stronger. It’s an important complement to digital advertising.
Helping Canadians connect and businesses grow through mail
Simply by delivering mail and parcels, we help Canadians and Canadian businesses connect – but in 2020, we didn’t stop there. We launched a special initiative to help Canadians stay connected – our national Write here. Write now. campaign. It built on the emotional connection created by receiving letters, notes and cards in the mail. Touching videos captured the joy of opening that special letter, encouraging people to put pen to paper.
We also rolled out initiatives to help small businesses:
- Our Think Small program provided every small business in Canada with additional shipping discounts over the spring and early summer. We also introduced Canada Post Neighbourhood Mail™ offers to help them, and we launched ads to encourage Canadians to support local businesses.
- The Small Business Tales of Triumph contest celebrated resilient local small businesses that revamped their strategies during the pandemic. Prizes included credits for our Smartmail Marketing™ and parcel services, promotion on our social channels, paid advertising and coaching from a contest judge.
- We again offered Free Shipping Tuesdays to members of the Canada Post Solutions for Small Business™ program. In its fifth year, this promotion was all the more important to businesses amid 2020's COVID-19 impacts. It allowed businesses to send one free Expedited Parcel every Tuesday in October – and arrange for one free on-demand pickup.
COVID-19 made it an unprecedented year of challenges and change for Canada Post. But 2020 was also memorable for the great resilience, pride and dedication that our employees showed as they served their fellow Canadians.