An Post, the semi-State postal service, is set to completely overhaul its delivery strategy as a spike in online shopping changes consumer habits.
The volume of small parcels - most commonly associated with online purchases - had been rising by a steady 14pc per year until 2013. Parcel volumes spiked in 2013, rising 22pc, with the increase continuing in 2014.
An Post now handles 2.5m items of mail per day, split between letters and parcels. Core letter mail has dropped by 30pc since the 2007 peak.
Faced with this change in demand, An Post has been retooling its business with new technology and distribution centres. There are now 800 collections points around the country, with 400 in post offices.
Many of the centres are in larger purpose-built complexes, often in business parks.
"We can't be doing this out of the back of someone's kitchen," said a source.
Some of the centres are open on Saturday mornings to cater for people who work during office hours.
An Post has also extended opening hours during the week. The Cork South City distribution centre used to close at 5.30pm. It is now open until 7pm to handle demand from people who work from 9 till 5pm.
These extended opening ours will gradually be rolled out across the rest of the country.
An Post's move tracks similar initiatives across Europe as mail and parcel delivery services change to deal with the growing volumes caused by online shopping and the changing habits of consumers.
Last week, the Royal Mail announced that it would open a number of collection centres on Sundays, so that shoppers could pick up purchases at weekends rather than solely during the week.
An Post is also preparing to transform home delivery. Last July, it sought expressions of interest for the provision of 10,000 new home delivery boxes.
This has gone to full tender, with An Post seeking to extend the number of boxes to 80,000 following trials in Dublin, Galway and Donegal during the spring.
These new home delivery boxes will be installed by home owners and will be designed to hold larger online shopping parcels in a secure, water proof vault. Using these boxes means that the home owner would not have to go to a distribution centre to pick up any packages that could not be delivered because they were not at home when the postman arrived.
It is expected that the tender will be finished by Christmas with the self-install boxes getting to market by early 2015.
An Post already offers a service where customers can have missed packages redirected or redelivered - with a €3 charge, payable online or by phone.
Sunday Indo Business