Bantry has been chosen by An Post to trial a next-day package delivery service that will link online consumers with local retailers, writes Pádraig Hoare.
An Post said Bantry would be the pilot town for its eLocal.ie service that provides a next-day delivery for businesses to local customers.
The service is An Post’s latest attempt to inject new life into its business and compete with online delivery firms like Parcel Motel.
An Post has seen its traditional business dwindle, with mail volumes down year-on-year in line with global conditions.
In 2016, it recorded a pre-tax loss of €15.6m on the back of higher costs and lower volumes of mail, which fell by more than 5%.
Since 2007, the volume of letters has fallen 40%.
An Post said the new initiative would give each retailer an online presence, displaying their goods and services, and enabling online orders. Under the scheme, consumers will shop online wherever they see the eLocal.ie logo, click and order via the retailer’s eLocal.ie page, and have the purchases delivered locally within 24 hours or nationally within 48 hours.
There will also be a cheaper click-and-collect option, An Post said.
If the Bantry pilot scheme is successful, An Post said there would be a national rollout later this year.
During the pilot, a customer in Bantry will order items to be delivered to their home a couple of miles outside the town. The items will be collected by An Post and delivered by the regular postman or postwoman as part of the usual mail delivery on the following day.
Charges for the service are €7.50 for delivery or €3.50 for click-and-collect. These are the only costs or charges involved, according to An Post.
The customer will pay the fee for the delivery or the retailer will absorb the fee in whole or in part, it said.
An Post said its recent research found half of Irish consumers said they shop online at least once a month.
The retail sector has been under severe pressure from the rise of online shopping giants such as Amazon.
International names such as Toys R Us are closing all stores in the US and the UK, while Maplin Electronics went into administration, with tens of thousands of jobs combined lost or at risk.
Fashion brands have also been feeling the squeeze with Ted Baker shares falling sharply last week when it warned of a tough global environment ahead for retailers.
An Post’s mail and parcel managing director Garrett Bridgeman said the new scheme would help retailers in Bantry “fight back” against tough conditions.
Communications Minister Denis Naughten said the new service “will give local businesses the edge over national and international online operators”.