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An Post to deliver parcels on Saturday for online shoppers

State-owned company targeting €600m a year online retail market to boost its income

An Post is breaking with decades of tradition with Saturday and weekday evening parcel deliveries, and staff have agreed to radical new working arrangements as the company moves to diversify from its declining letters business. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Some 500 postmen and women will deliver about 20,000 parcels to Irish homes and businesses on Saturday as An Post breaks with decades of tradition in a bid to capture a bigger share of the €600 million-a-year market for online shopping.

Staff and their unions have agreed to radical new working arrangements that will involve them delivering parcels on Saturdays and weekday evenings for the first time, The Irish Times has learned. The evening service will begin on Monday.

This is part of an aggressive drive by the State-owned company to double its share of this market to 50 per cent by 2021 and is backed up by an €8 million investment that includes an upgrade of its IT systems and a major advertising campaign.

An Post made an operating loss of €13.7 million last year and its chief executive, David McRedmond, has warned that its losses would rise if no action were taken to reshape the business.

Diversify

He wants the company to diversify its income stream away from its traditional letters business, which is declining by about 10 per cent a year.

The Government recently cleared the way for the company to increase the price of a postage stamp to €1 from 72 cent to help boost its revenues.

The average online shopping spend in Ireland last year was €553 per head compared with €1,011 in the UK, and Mr McRedmond is believed to see parcel deliveries as key to its survival.

An Post staff will now attempt to deliver parcels to customers at least three times before directing them to collect their items at a sorting depot.

They will also contact the customer by phone if the details are provided and, if requested, will leave parcels with neighbours or an alternative location.

Real-time data

Retailers will be able to follow the progress of the parcels via real-time data provided through scanners carried by An Post staff.

Saturday’s deliveries will involve about one in nine An Post delivery staff. To date, parcels were delivered Monday to Friday, with one attempt made at a customer’s door.

An Post believes the changes will enable it to secure potentially lucrative contracts with international retailers, and better position it to retain existing business.