Correos opens avenues for the future in the rural world

The public postal operator Correos wants to take advantage of its network in small municipalities to promote new services

Eduardo Lopez Alonso 31.01.2021 | 08:36. Source: The Opinion of Murcia

Oficina de Correos en el mundo rural.

Post Office in the rural world.

The postman in Spain continues to be a symbol of connection between the rural world and the center of economic activity. The emptied Spain, the smaller towns or urbanizations with less population density have the Internet and teleworking as one of the keys to future development and the public entity Correos sees an opportunity for growth and wants to equip itself with multi-service offices, beyond the administrative or parcel delivery window. The public postal service, widely implemented in Spain through Correos, reaches places where the great e-commerce giants are unlikely to be able to discover business opportunities. But the public budget of Correos has been cut for this year from 180 to 128 million and the agency needs to raise its income.

To boost postal activity in rural areas, Correos is committed to Correos Market, a marketing platform for craft products with which it seeks to bring local vendors closer to any citizen and even foreign consumers. Created in 2019, the platform currently has 785 companies, which have 6,872 products for sale, according to data from this week. In the Post office they assure that "the generation of business opportunities in rural areas and the continuous improvement of their communication channels are the optimal way to fight against depopulation". The initiative is viewed favorably by the staff, although it is criticized that there is a lack of investment to adapt the vehicles to the distribution of perishable products.

Another strategy to boost and take advantage of rural infrastructure are agreements with insurers or banks. In 2019, the entity offered its offices to the financial sector to reach the municipalities where branches and ATMs are disappearing. The president of Correos, Juan Manuel Serrano, signed an agreement with Banco Santander at the end of last year to offer, as of the first quarter of this year, cash withdrawal and deposit services at 4,675 Correos citizen service points (in 2,393 offices and 2,282 rural service points). Third-party financial services offered by Correos range from contracting products to making deposits or withdrawing money. Correos maintains agreements, in addition to Santander, with Mediolanum, Evo Banco and Bancofar, but aspires to more.

Correos has 2,393 offices throughout Spain, of which 1,297 are located in rural areas and in whose spheres of influence 15 million people live. The Spanish postal giant has 53,000 employees (20% of them civil servants) of which some 5,470 are assigned to rural areas. It is estimated that they travel 320,000 kilometers daily.

The unions fear that the budget restrictions will condemn Correos to cut means and reduce delivery frequencies in rural environments, "discriminating against and abandoning the empty Spain in front of the urban Spain", they explain. In Correos they defend the global strategic commitment to the rural environment and give the Correos Market as an example and the attempt to bring products of the economic activity of the town to the city. Correos is also running to create local virtual markets. An example is the use of the postal code as a proximity virtual sales identifier. This initiative to link the postal code to a market place is a way forward.

The public postal service with Correos is insured until at least 2026. The agreement includes mailings of letters and packages of up to 20 kilos. Correos has already achieved a market share of 45% in shipments as a result of online commerce and is betting on this market from which it cannot leave rural areas out. The operator managed 196.56 million packages last year.

But the efforts of Correos to promote and improve rural business, within the framework of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) strategies and the assigned public service, sometimes collide with efficiency and results. For example, in Sant Cebrià de Vallalta, a town in the Maresme region with 3,385 inhabitants, the decision has been made to reorganize work in the distribution unit. There are six postmen and they use their own vehicles (20 cents per kilometer). But from March they will be assigned to other nearby towns (Canet and Calella) during their entire working day. The customer service office is only open three hours a day, too limited hours according to the city council. The clerk in charge will distribute mail four hours and another three will be in the office. It is an example of Correos' strategy of optimizing available resources and adapting the workforce to the greater workloads of other areas. It is applied throughout Spain, and especially when defining coverage in areas with low population density. And in parallel, the offices serve as a link to process permits and manage certificates, but also to buy tickets for shows, buy prepaid phone cards, pay bills or buy coupons from Once.

Post office workers recognize that postal activity has not been reduced. That there are more and more packages to distribute and that many of them are from Amazon. There is an express order from the management so that urgent packages have priority. It is not profitable for Amazon or the express mail firms to reach an empty Spain and those areas that the Post Office classifies as “special environments”.

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