A Logistics Infrastructure on Par with Europe

The Republic has 2.2 million residential and business addresses and a population of 4.6 million spread across an area of 70,000 sq km and 10 major conurbations. Over a fifth of these consumers reside in Dublin but much of the population lives in rural and semi-rural locations. That said, delivery to these customers presents no significant logistical challenges and fulfillment of online orders has been recently expedited by the introduction of postal codes unique to each address. Most major international carriers service the country while companies like Nightline can integrate both locally and internationally. Click & collect is increasing in popularity as are parcel lockers such as Parcel Motel. Northern Ireland adds another 1.8 million customers to the overall Irish market who, while politically part of the UK, can often be served by the same logistics solutions as in the Republic.

At the beginning of 2016, the World Bank ranked the Republic as 17th for ease of doing business; out of 189 countries. The Republic’s top trading partners are:

  • Exports: US (21%), UK (16%), Belgium (14%) and Germany (7%)
  • The British Irish Chamber of Commerce estimates trade at €60bn in 2016 – over €1bn per week, and their goal is to see €100bn per annum
  • Imports: UK (39%), US (10%), Germany (8.5%) and Netherlands (6%)

The country’s economy is driven largely by foreign direct investment, a well-educated workforce and a government keen to reduce its borrowing deficit. Key industries include technology, financial services, pharmaceuticals, engineering and clean technology. The UK, being the closest country geographically, is a strong trading partner while the influence of global, US technology brands impact the import / export figures. A large proportion of the population live in rural areas, including smaller towns and villages. The capital city, Dublin, is by-far the largest conurbation with over 1 million inhabitants.

Direct delivery tariffs might class shipments bound for the Emerald Isle as ‘International’ but Nightline strive to deliver at UK domestic rates and consumers demand the same level of service offered to their UK counterparts. They want the same breadth of produce, the same convenience, cost and speed of delivery and the same ease in returning unwanted purchases. Our UK retail partners, including the majority of the UK’s top 20 brands, have realised that not being able to offer comparable standards at the checkout increases the prospect of cart abandonment. They have tapped into the appeal of Parcel Motel, our nationwide parcel locker system. A unique proposition in Ireland, it has almost 250,000 regular users – the top 10% of Irish consumers – and is capable of handling low-cost deliveries and returns. Using a ‘Virtual Address’, which is driving rapidly- rising volumes of ecommerce purchases to customers in the Republic through our Belfast depot, retailers have already seen the clear benefits of catering to a consumer audience whose vast appetite is growing at a rate even faster than the UK. Next day delivery throughout Ireland is now a reality for retailers with fulfillment operations in the UK and the overheads for penetrating the Irish market can be further reduced by a direct collection and injection into the Nightline network. The barriers to entering Ireland are coming down.[1]


Ireland, as an island, consists of two separate but conjoined market opportunities and countries – the Republic of Ireland (‘the Republic’) and Northern Ireland. The Republic has a population of over 4.6 million and a GDP per capita of nearly $49,000 in 2014; the fourth-highest of any member state of the European Union (EU). Most of the population speak English and 30% speak Irish Gaelic. Tourism is a key part of the economy with over 8 million tourists visiting every year; more than double the population of the country. Three international airports and membership of the EU have established the Republic as an active participant in cross-border trade across the EU, Northern Ireland and further afield. The main import markets are the United Kingdom (UK – 39%), United States of America (US – 10%), Germany (8.5%) and Netherlands (6%).

Northern Ireland, while being politically and economically part of the UK, is geographically closer to the Republic, sharing a common border and heritage. While this report focuses on the Republic, cross-border trade is an important way of life for the communities both sides of the border. As such, it is important for any merchant looking to trade into the Republic to understand the differences as well as the opportunities. Where appropriate, specific insight in to the Northern Ireland market will be highlighted, while more in-depth information is available from the UK passport which can be found at ecommerceworldwide.com. For example, Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to share a physical land border with the EU.

Northern Ireland has a population of over 1.8 million while the provincial capital, Belfast, contains over 330,000 inhabitants. In the Republic, Dublin represents the single largest conurbation and concentration of people in the country. With over 1 million citizens residing in the capital’s region, it o ers merchants the biggest market while the second largest area (Cork) is notably smaller at around 190,000 inhabitants. With a considerable proportion of the population in rural areas, good road links are important and the country is well provided for in this area. [2]


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):

  • Royal Mail International Tracked and Signed – 3 to 5 days’ delivery – delivery conformation and limited compensation
  • Royal Mail International Tracked – 3 to 5 days’ delivery – delivery conformation and limited compensation
  • Parcelforce Worldwide irelandexpress – 1 day guaranteed – tracked and higher level compensation
  • Parcelforce Worldwide global express – from 1 day guaranteed – tracked and higher level compensation
  • Parcelforce Worldwide global priority – 3 days’ delivery – tracked and higher level compensation
  • Parcelforce Worldwide global value - 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:


  • UPS Express Plus – next business day – delivery by 09:00
  • UPS Express – next business day – delivery typically by 10:30 noon or by 12:00
  • UPS Express Saver – delivery by end of next business day
  • UPS Expedited – 2-5 business days – delivery by end of day
  • UPS Standard – day de nite 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:

  • International Priority – typically 2 working days to European cities and 3 working days to other addresses
  • 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.

DHL Offers four service options to Ireland:

  • Export Express – 09:00 delivery the next possible working day
  • Export Express – 12:00 delivery the next possible working day
  • Export Express Worldwide – Guaranteed delivery by the end of the next possible working day
  • 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.

TNT Offers international services to Ireland including time and day-de ned, 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.

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

  • DPD Air Classic – typically o ering global delivery in between 3 to 10 days
  • DPD Express – typically o ering global delivery in between 2 to 8 days [3]

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

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.

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

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. 

Parcel brokers

Parcel brokers provide smaller retailers with a way of accessing be er 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. [5]


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 be er rates. Providers of such services include MetaPack, ITinSell, Consignor and Electio. [6]

In-country fulfillment

Should a cross-border retailer generate sufficient orders to fulfill those orders ‘in-country’, local operators such as Nightline and DPD provide full warehousing facilities. [7]

Customs & 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. [8]


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 o en administered and enforced by different government bodies. When contemplating packaging rules and standards, retailers should refer to the packaging regulations specific to their industry. [9]

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.

  • Nightline Delivers – a fully tracked next-day delivery service throughout Ireland
  • All Ireland next-day distribution through Tapa ‘A’ and GDP certi ed network
  • Parcel Pilot – retailer-branded pre- ight and in- ight noti cations 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
  • Premium service – Same day, timed, evening and weekend delivery options
  • Parcel Motel – the only nationwide locker terminal network offering remote, secure pick-up via retailer API (see section – Click & collect)

An Post

  • Standard Post – Next-day delivery within the Republic with tracking available
  • Registered Post – Next-day delivery within the Republic, with tracking and signature on delivery. Insurance up to €320 with additional insurance options available.
  • Express Post – Guaranteed next working day delivery within the Republic, with or without signature on delivery and insurance up to €350.
  • Post Alerts – Provides email and / or SMS updates at key points within the delivery cycle of an item with express with signature service.
  • Re-delivery – An Post o er 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 • Saturdaydeliveryoption
  • 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 • A franchised courier network serving Ireland Any overseas retailer must consider their delivery o er against the context of this service landscape because, as se ing the competition benchmark with local retailers, this in uences the needs and expectations of Republic 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Click and Collect 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)
  • 9,280 lockers in 116 consumer accessible locations
  • Available 24/7/365
  • 250,000 registered Irish consumers
  • Can be o ered as an alternative delivery option for shoppers who may want to collect rather than have home delivery
  • Can be used in conjunction with a UK virtual delivery address for retailers not serving Ireland directly
  • Can be used for returns for UK-based retailers.
  • Parcel Connect • A network of Parcelshops served by Castaway Couriers
  • An Post MyParcel PickUp
  • A new delivery option provided through the PostPoint network in Ireland
  • 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. [10]


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 e cient 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:

  • A simple and transparent returns process
  • A convenient way to drop-off the parcel or have it collected
  • To be kept informed on the progress of their return
  • 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 o ers 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 su cient demand, for the goods to be retained in Ireland and used to fulfill 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 speci c landing pages for its retailer partners to facilitate label printing and returns and provides this service for a number of UK retailers. [11]

Import Duties

The majority of consumer products fall into the VAT rate of 23%. Books, Children’s clothing and educational products are zero rated at 0%. Non-established suppliers supplying taxable goods or services in the State are generally obliged to register and account for Irish VAT. The turnover thresholds for VAT registration which apply to Irish suppliers do not apply and non established suppliers must register for Irish VAT regardless of the level of their turnover. Where the value of distance sales to the State (Ireland) by a supplier in another EU Member State exceeds €35,000 in a calendar year that supplier must register for VAT in the State and must account for VAT at the appropriate Irish rates. If the threshold is not exceeded, the supplier may opt to register and account for VAT in the State on his or her distance sales. Non-established suppliers making distance sales of excisable goods (spirits, tobacco etc.) to the State are obliged to register for VAT in the State irrespective of the level of turnover. (source: www.revenue.ie) VAT and Duties is a complex area and merchants are advised to seek professional advice on this area and can gain more information from the Irish Tax and Customs Service at www.revenue.ie [12]


  1.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  2.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  3.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  4.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  5.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  6.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  7.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  8.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  9.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  10.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  11.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"
  12.  eCommerce Worldwide. Ireland Country Guide. "eCommerce in Ireland"

4.8 million


$304.8 billion

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