An Post to invest €50m in modernising post office network

Post office within 15km of every community with 500 pledged and within 3km in cities

An Post has committed to having a post office within 15km (9.3 miles) of every community with more than 500 people, and within 3km in urban areas.

In a deal struck with the Irish Postmasters’ Union after three months of mediation, it is understood that this will result in about 20 new post offices being opened around the State.

The State-owned company plans to invest €50 million in its network of post offices over the next three to four years in a move designed to modernise its operations and position it to exploit ecommerce opportunities.

It will also secure the future of most of the 1,000-strong network of offices around the country.


Collection and return

As part of the plan, to be announced on Friday, all post offices will open during lunch time, and there will be a major refurbishment programme for outlets to allow them to offer consumers collection and return services for online purchases.

Some post offices will close, although these will be on a voluntary basis and financial packages will be offered to postmasters who are willing to exit the business.

In addition, the State-owned company has set up a new business unit called An Post Retail to drive growth opportunities for the network. This will focus on exploiting opportunities in financial services (it has signed up 30,000 active customers to its new current account), Government work and ecommerce.

Led by newly appointed managing director Debbie Byrne, the unit manages about €14 billion a year and employs 3,500 staff.

An Post has just signed a new social welfare contract with the State and wants to position itself as a one-stop shop for Government services. This could include accepting payments for local authorities, fines, planning applications and ID authorisations.

The company wants to locate more post offices within convenience stores or supermarkets – about half of the network is already co-located – to extend its opening hours and maximise ecommerce opportunities.

It will also refurbish its entire estate and introduce larger post offices in major towns. In addition, it will introduce new formats to deal with parcels and automated transactions.

An Post returned to profit last year thanks to an increase in stamp prices, growth in its parcel delivery business, and cost-cutting measures. The company recorded a profit of €8.4 million in 2017 with revenues returning to levels last achieved in 2008.

It was a surprise turnaround for the group, which made a loss of €12.4 million in the previous year and had forecast a deficit of €61 million for 2017 if radical action was not taken.

An Post chief executive David McRedmond said the company had achieved “a substantial turnaround” of its business.

"With the restructuring into two core businesses, the reinvigoration of management, the collaboration with the staff and unions, especially the Communications Workers Union, and the backing of Government, the future is bright," he said. "An Post is the enabler of ecommerce, and will play an increasingly important role partnering the digital economy."

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times