Humble post office is set to be transformed with delivery of a parcel of new services

The growth in popularity of online shopping has seen An Post benefit hugely (stock picture)

Charlie Weston

The future of the humble post office could be radically different under new plans to transform the network. Currently, post offices are places were people go to buy a stamp, or collect the State pension.

The caricature is of a place mainly frequented by older people, with a very limited range of services, favoured by those who are not tech savvy.

Tomorrow's post office is likely to be much more high-tech, and attractive to a younger audience. The post office of the future will be where you collect that parcel from Amazon. But - crucially - you will be able to pick up the parcel after work, or during lunchtime.

The post office will also be a one-stop shop for Government services.

The growth in popularity of online shopping has seen An Post benefit hugely. It has already redesigned its parcels service, extending deliveries to Saturdays.

It now plans to make its post office network the backbone of the surge in e-commerce activity. Pending agreement with the 1,000 members of the Irish Postmasters Union on a new contract, there are plans to offer out-of-hours collections for parcels, and other services such as returns, tracking and redirections from your local post office.

More post offices are set to be located in supermarkets, which will allow shop staff to have a role in handling parcel services outside of post office hours. The aim is to offer a much larger range of financial services.

Already you can open a current account, and An Post sells the State's savings products. You can pay bills, and buy insurance products.

The financial services offering is to be expanded, with loans offered to consumers and small businesses.

To achieve this, An Post may seek a banking licence, or could link up with a bank. There is also a plan for post offices to become a key option to access State services, such as the payment of fines, or a place to file a planning application. But the geographical shape of post office network is set to change.

Currently there are 1,100 post offices - some 50 of these are run directly by An Post.

Some 1,000 are run by members of the IPU. A key part of the deal is an exit package for postmasters. Around 150 offices will close, with services consolidated into larger towns, but 20 new offices will open.

The future number of offices will depend on the take-up of the offer. Some postmasters seeking the pay-off will not be offered it if An Post wants to keep the operation.

An Post insists there will be no compulsory closures, and it is pumping €50m into the network.

For those that remain, the future is set to be very different to the traditional post office.