PracticePeople In PracticePost offices to become e-commerce hubs

Post offices to become e-commerce hubs

Local post offices in the UK could soon become ecommerce centres, co-ordinating the delivery of goods bought online and giving those without access to a computer a chance to shop online.

A report on the future of the Post Office, published yesterday by Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers, said that its brand and historical community service role makes its branches ideally situated to becoming ecommerce centres, especially in rural communities.

There is an opportunity for the Post Office to provide a distribution network or goods bought online, according to the report, which is something the online retailers themselves haven’t invested much time or money in arranging.

‘The Post Office needs to make rapid progress in exploiting these opportunities with private sector partners, as part of the modernisation of the network,’ the report said.

Other suggestions for sub-post offices are for them to become local and national e-government information centres, and for sub-postmasters to be trained to help those unfamiliar with the new technology to use the internet, or to carry out transactions on their behalf.

‘The Post Office needs to work up a business case, in partnership with the private sector, for piloting this idea as soon as possible,’ the report concluded.

Byers said: ‘We are committed to enabling the Post Office to meet the changing needs of customers, society and the opportunities from new technology. We want a network that can thrive rather than just survive in the 21st century.’

The modernisation plan calls for more sweeping changes to the Post Office’s delivery system in the wake of the explosion in internet use. Its Parcel Force businesses will introduce two-hour delivery slots early next year, allowing shoppers to choose when their purchases will be delivered.

Such efficiency improvements could also help the Post Office attract business from dotcom retailers, and help it prepare for European deregulation of ‘low value’ mail later this year.

Copies of the report, Counter Revolution – Modernising the Post Office Network, are available at www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/innovation or by emailing piu@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk

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