Discussion Papers

Antonia Niederprüm, Veronika Söntgerath, Sonja Thiele, Martin Zauner

Postal retail outlets from a cross-sectoral perspective

No. 346 /September 2010 


Since full opening of the German postal market, the universal service obligation (USO) is on the market as a whole and no longer on one obligated ‘universal service provider’. Among other USO criteria, the density criteria for nationwide availability of post offices / postal outlets now relate to all postal operators jointly.

This study aims at describing and assessing how postal outlet networks have developed in the past. It further compares the postal sector to retail networks of other sectors that are not subject to sector-specific regulation. Finally, the study analyses the current regulatory framework for postal networks in Germany and makes recommendations.

The study starts describing the development of retail networks of three German (Deutsche Post, Hermes, PIN) and four European postal operators (Swedish Posten, Spanish Correos, Swiss Post and Dutch TNT). Additionally, developments in sectors with nationwide retail networks are presented in detail: (petrol) filling stations, banks and food retail stores. Supplementary, the retail strategies of selected German companies (the petrol station chain Aral, Deutsche Bank) and several food discounters are presented. Finally, the study compares the retail networks at sector level.

In the reference sectors, stagnating or declining demand, changes in customer behaviour, mergers and increasing cost pressure have resulted in a declining number of retail outlets at sector-level. Nevertheless, nationwide access to petrol, financial services and food has been maintained. In the postal market, increasing competition, growing demand for parcels, and the in low investment and operating costs of new agency models have resulted in a considerably growing number of postal outlets for letter and/or parcel services. In light of competition in the parcels market, incumbent Deutsche Post has increased the number of access points since full market opening.

Against this background we recommend to simplify the regulatory requirements for postal outlets in German postal legislation. The study make specific recommendations on how the legal criteria could be phrased more simply. Inter alia, we argue that the requirement of a minimum of 12.000 postal access points could be abolished. This requirement seems redundant as current market performance outperforms the legal standard.

Full version only available in German language.

Discussion Paper is available for download.

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