Logistics and delivery

supported by Nightline

With a population of 4.6 million, the Republic sits at number 29 in the list of European markets by size. However, unlike some other countries with similar populations, the geography of the Republic makes all shoppers highly accessible:

  1. Covering only 70,000 sq km
  2. Concentrated within 2.2 million residential and business addresses
  3. Within 6 counties and 10 major conurbations; the largest being Dublin with over a fifth of the population

Northern Ireland adds to this with its population of 1.84 million across 11 local government districts covering less than 14,000 sq km.

From a logistics standpoint therefore Ireland, as a whole, presents retailers with no significant obstacles and with the recent introduction of postcodes in the Republic – until now a real barrier to ecommerce – accurately locating consumers has become much easier.

Over 35% of addresses in the Republic share their address with at least one other property, previously making it difficult for those delivering goods and services to accurately identify the location of a specific address. Introduced in July 2015 a new postcode system, Eircode, has been deployed specifically to overcome this problem. Unlike other countries where postcodes define a cluster or group of addresses, a unique Eircode is assigned to each residential and business address.

The seven-digit code is in two parts:

  1. The first part is a three-digit routing key which defines a principal post town span of delivery
  2. The second four digits are unique to an address and distinguishes one address from another

Retailers seeking to access the Irish market should make use of Eircode to assist in targeting and delivery efficiency (www.eircode.ie).

Logistics choices to reach Ireland

Although as reported earlier, 9% of shoppers in the Republic say they are discouraged from shopping with cross-border retailers because they assume delivery will take longer, subject to where they order from this is not necessarily a problem.

For retailers not based in Ireland but wishing to reach consumers with their e-retail proposition, there are a wide number of logistics options.


In Northern Ireland, Royal Mail will provide delivery services as part of its UK universal service obligation.

In the Republic, using An Post as the final delivery agent, retailers will be able to access services through their own domestic postal providers. From the UK for example, Royal Mail provides the following service options (example – small parcel weighing 500 grams and valued under £50):

  1. Royal Mail International Tracked and Signed – 3 to 5 days’ delivery – delivery conformation and limited compensation
  2. Royal Mail International Tracked – 3 to 5 days’ delivery – delivery conformation and limited compensation
  3. Parcelforce Worldwide irelandexpress – 1 day guaranteed – tracked and higher level compensation
  4. Parcelforce Worldwide globalexpress – from 1 day guaranteed – tracked and higher level compensation
  5. Parcelforce Worldwide globalpriority – 3 days’ delivery – tracked and higher level compensation
  6. Parcelforce Worldwide globalvalue - 3-5 days’ delivery aim – not tracked but with higher level compensation

UK retailers and Republic shoppers buying from UK retailers have some additional options through the postal route (see sections – Direct access and Virtual address).

Global carriers

There are a number of global carriers able to provide collection, distribution and delivery into Northern Ireland and the Republic (using their own operations or local partners). The main ones are:

UPS – Offers a range of services and delivery times to Ireland subject to country of origin and the specific destination:

  1. UPS Express Plus – next business day – delivery by 09:00
  2. UPS Express – next business day – delivery typically by 10:30 noon or by 12:00
  3. UPS Express Saver – delivery by end of next business day
  4. UPS Expedited – 2-5 business days – delivery by end of day
  5. UPS Standard – day definite by date scheduled – delivery during the day (UK 2 days)

The example service times above are from the UK where all the services are available except UPS Expedited. UPS services are designed for business deliveries and the service times shown are for delivery to business areas. Residential / rural areas may take a little longer and residential delivery services may incur a surcharge.

For residential deliveries UPS does offer a click & collect solution, Access Points, where shoppers can collect their orders. However, UPS has yet to extend its network to Ireland.

For Northern Ireland services will be similar although UPS will treat this as part of the UK.

Fed Ex

Offers two main services to Ireland for ecommerce orders with delivery times subject to country of origin and the specific destination. These are:

  1. International Priority – typically 2 working days to European cities and 3 working days to other addresses
  2. International Economy – typically within 5 working days

For Northern Ireland services will be similar although Fed Ex will treat this as part of the UK.


Offers four service options to Ireland:

  1. Export Express – 09:00 delivery the next possible working day
  2. Export Express – 12:00 delivery the next possible working day
  3. Export Express Worldwide – Guaranteed delivery by the end of the next possible working day
  4. Export Economy Select

For ecommerce deliveries it is likely that the most viable option will be Export Economy Select where, by example, delivery from the UK will be 2 working days.

For Northern Ireland services will be similar although DHL will treat this as part of the UK.


Offers international services to Ireland including time and day-defined, express and economy subject to country of origin and the specific destination. From the UK for example, service options include next-day by 09:00, by 10:00, by 12:00, and close of business.

However, the most viable option for ecommerce parcels is likely to be economy express which provides a 2-day delivery from the UK.

For Northern Ireland services will be similar although TNT will treat this as part of the UK.


Offers two main international services with transit times dependent on the origin of the shipments:

  1. DPD Air Classic – typically offering global delivery in between 3 to 10 days
  2. DPD Express – typically offering global delivery in between 2 to 8 days

For Northern Ireland services will be similar although UPS will treat this as part of the UK.

Retailers nearer to Ireland, such as in the UK, will have access to more services as DPD treats this destination as an offshore extension to its domestic services (see section – Domestic carriers).

Domestic carriers

In addition to the global carriers already listed (which will also be domestic carriers in most markets), in many countries domestic carriers based in the retailer’s own market will often accept online retail orders and ship them to Ireland.

Domestic carriers may sub-contract the onward shipment, often to the global carriers or postal service, but for a retailer holding a contract with a domestic carrier this can be a natural starting point for accessing services to Ireland and it should start by finding out what options they provide and can use this as a benchmark.

Service times will vary depending on the line haul arrangements in place and the service partner chosen.

From the UK such services include:

Royal Mail (see section – Post)

Hermes will deliver to Ireland in 3 to 5 days.

Yodel offers a 2-day or 3-day delivery to Ireland.


  1. 2 days’ delivery to the Republic in general but 12:00, next-day and 2-day options for Dublin
  2. DPD also runs a direct access service – DPD Direct – which can offer delivery in 3 to 4 days (see section – Direct access).

Although UK domestic carriers will treat Northern Ireland as part of the UK, there may be additional time and costs incurred in moving goods from the mainland UK. As a result there may be some extension to delivery times and some carriers may treat Northern Ireland as an ‘exception area’ applying surcharges.

Direct access

Direct access describes a solution used to consolidate volumes from different senders to achieve better air transport rates. Consolidated orders are shipped to the destination country where they are handed to local partners for the final delivery.

Direct access operators provide a managed service that can include:

  1. In-transit tracking
  2. Customs clearance – often ‘wheels up’ in advance of arrival
  3. Multiple points of entry – reducing ‘in-country’ line haul costs and lead times
  4. Calculation and payment of duties in advance of order and dispatch
  5. Harmonised Tariff Schedule (HTS) code classification
  6. Tracked returns – for unwanted and undeliverable items

Where a retailer has sufficient volume to be able to contract with a direct access operator there is the opportunity to get a ‘courier’ level service at less than ‘courier’ rates.

There are a number of companies providing such services to Ireland. In the UK for example these include wnDirect, P2P Mailing (Trakpak) and DPD Direct.

In addition to these services some Irish-based carriers can arrange a similar operation:

Nightline – has dedicated hubs for load consolidation and distribution located across the UK at Manchester, Kettering, Lichfield, Bristol, Glasgow and Leeds. It offers up to 15 departures each day to bring loads into Ireland for onward delivery.

An Post Link – a bulk freight service where a UK retailer can send pallets across to Ireland. This can then be combined with An Post delivery services to get the parcels to the customer.

Parcel brokers

Parcel brokers provide smaller retailers with a way of accessing better pre-contract rates through postal operators, global and domestic carriers and direct access providers.

Parcel brokers do not offer all carrier options, only those that choose to contract with them, but in the UK for example companies such as Parcel2Go and Parcel Monkey provide this channel into Ireland using the likes of Nightline, TNT, DPD, Asendia, UPS, Hermes, Parcelforce and others.


Retailers with a reasonable volume of orders going to Ireland may wish to consider the option of parcel management service integrators who can provide immediate integration with a wide range of service providers delivering into the Irish market. These will include most of the options above (excluding parcel brokers) and many others.

The retailer will need to have or enter into a contract with the delivery service provider but then the integrator will offer the ability to allocate orders to the most appropriate service – using agreed business rules – printing labels and customs documentation, providing tracking and helping to manage returns. For smaller retailers some integrators offer their own parcel broker option that can help obtain better rates.

Providers of such services include MetaPack, ITinSell, Consignor and Electio.

In-country fulfilment

Should a cross-border retailer generate sufficient orders to fulfil those orders ‘in-country’, local operators such as Nightline and DPD provide full warehousing facilities.

Customs and clearance

The question of custom duties and taxation is covered earlier in this passport but needs to be referenced under the heading of logistics because any error can clearly delay clearance and delivery to the customer.

The delivery operator selected will be able to provide full details and advice on the necessary documentation and processes and some can go further by pre-clearing orders while the goods are in-transit or at the start of their journey using a consumer duty paid process. This can be done using the HTS code assigned to each product category and can reduce delivery times and remove a potential barrier of having the goods held when they arrive in Ireland.

Retailers are therefore advised to specifically ask what their chosen delivery partner can do to facilitate customs clearance and duty calculation / collection.

Of course as a member of the EU dispatches from within the EU to Ireland will not be subject to customs clearance.


E-retailers looking to enter the Irish market should be aware of the various packaging requirements needed for products crossing the border, though depending on the specific goods being exported, these requirements can vary greatly and, depending on the industry, regulations are often administered and enforced by different government bodies.

When contemplating packaging rules and standards, retailers should refer to the packaging regulations specific to their industry.

Delivery in Ireland

Any retailer wishing to compete for Irish consumers’ attention needs to appreciate the delivery services provided to them by domestic Irish retailers because these will provide direct competition.

Delivery services available to Northern Ireland are the same as those provided within the UK but with some additions provided by local carriers e.g. Nightline. Specifically, delivery within the Republic is mainly provided by the following companies:

Nightline – Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

With a network of 12 depots, Nightline provides services in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

  1. Nightline Delivers – a fully tracked1 next-day delivery service throughout Ireland
  2. All Ireland next-day distribution through Tapa ‘A’ and GDP certified network
  3. Parcel Pilot – retailer-branded pre-flight and in-flight notifications with an expected 2-hour delivery window providing the option to change the date, address and method of delivery (Parcel Motel locker pick-up / collect from depot) throughout the journey
  4. Premium service – Same day, timed, evening and weekend delivery options
  5. Parcel Motel – the only nationwide locker terminal network offering remote,secure pick-up via retailer API (see section – Click & collect)

An Post

  1. Standard Post – Next-day delivery within the Republic with tracking available
  2. Registered Post – Next-day delivery within the Republic, with tracking and signature on delivery. Insurance up to €320 with additional insurance options available.
  3. Express Post – Guaranteed next working day delivery within the Republic, with or without signature on delivery and insurance up to €350.
  4. Post Alerts – Provides email and / or SMS updates at key points within the delivery cycle of an item with express with signature service.
  5. Re-delivery – An Post offer a free re-delivery service to the same address or delivery to a neighbour, Post Office, Delivery Office or PostPoint location,should they be unable to effect first time delivery.

DPD Ireland

• DPD Premium – a next-day, tracked service throughout Ireland
   • Saturday delivery option
   • Pre-booked timed delivery option
• Cheque On Delivery
• Predict – a pre-delivery alert to the consumer on the morning of delivery
advising an expected one-hour delivery window with the option to defer to a later date
• SwapIt – the ability to exchange products when a delivery is made

Fastway Couriers

1. A franchised courier network serving Ireland

Any overseas retailer must consider their delivery offer against the context of this service landscape because, as setting the competition benchmark with local retailers, this influences the needs and expectations of Republic consumers.

Irish consumer delivery requirements

When deciding on the delivery offer to provide it is important to consider the needs and wants of Irish online shoppers and to recognise that any importing retailer is competing with domestic retailers already meeting these needs.

In the UK the two main concerns for consumers when shopping online are the inconvenience of not being at home when the delivery comes and the additional cost of delivery. Research conducted by Nightline as far back as April 2014 confirms that cost and convenient access are also critical factors to take into account when selling to Irish consumers.

Virtual address

In Ireland shoppers are able to take an additional degree of control when it comes to which cross-border retailers they buy from, using virtual address services.

This is a service mainly used for purchases from the UK, where the retailer they want to buy from does not offer a delivery option for Ireland. The shopper can register and be assigned a virtual delivery address which is a consolidation point in the UK.

The carrier then arranges to bring the consolidated orders to Ireland to be delivered to a designated location. Services available to Republic shoppers are currently:

Parcel Motel – The shopper pays the retailer’s UK delivery charge (if any) plus an additional charge (currently €3.95) to Nightline and the order is taken to their nominated Parcel Motel locker location. They are notified by email / SMS that the parcel is ready for collection from when they have 48 hours to collect (see section – Click & collect).

An Post Address Pal – The shopper pays the retailer’s UK delivery charge (if any) for delivery to An Post’s AddressPal address on the UK mainland. An Post will then have the item made available for collection from the customer’s nominated Post Office for a fee of €3.50.

Parcel Connect – The shopper pays the retailer’s UK delivery charge (if any) plus an additional charge (currently €4.50) to Parcel Connect and the order is taken to a Parcel Connect parcel shop for collection by the customer who is advised by SMS (see section – Click & collect).

Click & collect in Ireland

As with many other markets, Ireland is starting to adopt click & collect as a means for providing an alternative delivery channel to shoppers.

For Irish domestic retailers or UK retailers with stores in the Republic, in-store click & collect is of course an option but this is not so for importing retailers. Third party click & collect networks are starting to emerge:

Parcel Motel (parcelmotel.com)

  1. 9,280 lockers in 116 consumer accessible locations
  2. Available 24/7/365
  3. 250,000 registered Irish consumers
  4. Can be offered as an alternative delivery option for shoppers who may want to collect rather than have home delivery
  5. Can be used in conjunction with a UK virtual delivery address for retailers not serving Ireland directly
  6. Can be used for returns for UK-based retailers (see section – Returns)

Parcel Connect

  1. A network of Parcelshops served by Fastway Couriers


An Post MyParcel PickUp

  1. A new delivery option provided through the PostPoint network in Ireland
  2. Consumers are contacted by the An Post delivery agent and provided with the free option to have their parcels diverted to a PostPoint (local store) rather than have delivery to their home

The service is available through all Post Office and Postpoint locations with the Republic.

Returns in Ireland

European consumers have a statutory right to return goods within 14 days which means that as well as it being good practice to provide a transparent and efficient returns solution, there is a legal imperative too.

As we have already seen, 22% of Irish consumers are put off from shopping cross-border because they assume returns will be difficult or costly so when selecting their delivery partner for Ireland, retailers should find out what arrangements they can make for returns.

Republic consumers will need and expect:

  1. A simple and transparent returns process
  2. A convenient way to drop-off the parcel or have it collected
  3. To be kept informed on the progress of their return
  4. Be advised when their refund is being made, possibly including duty repatriation

For Ireland cross-border retailers can arrange for returns to be sent back to the country of origin (where it can be delivered back to the originating retailer to be processed) through the postal route or a carrier.

Nightline for example offers road and air services with daily departures to Europe and beyond and with local partner and distribution arrangements in France, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

For the UK, Nightline also offers retailers the facility to offer free, pre-paid or paid-for returns through its Parcel Motel network, where the customer can drop the parcel off and from where it is tracked back to the retailer. Parcel Motel also caters for Collect+ returns through its nationwide locker network.

Another option for reducing the lead time between the item being sent and being available for re-sale / disposal and customer credit, is for the return to be processed ‘in-country’.

Some operators now provide local processing centres where the return can be locally validated, quality controlled and the refund issued. This allows orders to be consolidated for return to stock, disposal or even, when there is sufficient demand, for the goods to be retained in Ireland and used to fulfil another Irish order.

Nightline Logistics provides such a capability through its high security and DPD also offers reverse logistics.

To help retailers manage the returns process these same operators are developing white label / multilingual returns portals matching up the original order with the return.

Such portals make it is easier for the customer to make returns, offering multiple payment options such as customer or retailer paid. The customer can print the label, see when a return has been received and when their refund is due.

Operators providing such services for the cross-border market include wnDirect and ReBound. Parcel Motel offers specific landing pages for its retailer partners to facilitate label printing and returns and provides this service for a number of UK retailers.





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