‘Clothes cabins’, checks on older people: La Poste is diversifying

The service wants to remain a key national institution so is changing how users young and old can use it

The changing rooms have been installed in some larger post offices, including in Paris and La Rochelle
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France’s national postal system, La Poste, is continuing to branch out, offering services such as checks on elderly residents on their routes, help with scanning digital letters, and even adding in-office changing rooms in some branches.

The innovations are a response to falling postal figures – three times less post is sent today than 15 years ago – which has jeopardised the service’s ability to remain relevant.

Despite the changing nature of the services on offer, however, La Poste says it wants to retain its position at the heart of communities, particularly in rural areas.

It wants to become a “key player in meeting the challenges of ageing, loneliness and remoteness,” said CEO Philippe Wahl.

To this effect, La Poste’s contract with the government (Contrat de présence postale territorial) for the years 2023-2025 has seen a shift towards increasing operations and traditional services in rural areas, whilst employing innovative techniques in larger cities.

It has also expanded services in rural areas, particularly for isolated residents.

Read more: Boost for rural France as 1,000 post offices to expand opening hours

Changing rooms in a post office near you

The latest idea, putting changing rooms directly in post offices, is aimed largely at younger users who order clothes online.

Whilst some online companies offer deliveries directly to a person’s home, many sites where people resell old clothes – such as Vinted – often send parcels to be collected from post offices or other collection points.

People collecting items they have ordered can try them on as soon as they collect them, and if they are not satisfied return them immediately without needing a second trip back to a post office.

Currently four of the 7,000 or so La Poste offices in France have changing rooms which have quickly proved popular.

“At first, [customers] were hesitant,” said Célia, a clerk in a Parisian La Poste centre with a newly-installed changing room.

Many were unsure what the new structures were, thinking they were a private office or toilet.

“But more and more, we have customers… who have tried using it.”

“People even ask our opinion on the clothes; ‘Do you like it? Is it nice?’,” she added.

If the installations continue to be successful, La Poste may further expand their rollout.

A focus on rural and elderly residents

La Poste has offered services such as home check-ins for elderly and isolated people (called Veillez sur mes parents) for some years, and more recently, started offering to help users with new digitised actions, including sending ‘E-stamps’.

Read more: French postal workers can scan priority letters for you at your home

An expansion of these services now includes the delivery of home meals and medicines.

Depending on the level of service, it costs between €21.90 and €103.90 per month, however certain tax credits can be put towards the cost.

Postal workers on their routes can visit multiple times per week, to deliver supplies, check-in on people, and have conversations with them. In addition, if the elderly person has any new issues they can tell the postal worker about them.

Postal workers fill in a report on their La Poste tablets after the visit, giving an overview of key information.

“They ask us what kind of mood [the elderly person] is in, as well as if they have any sudden, new, needs or if they have food in,” explains Alexia, a postwoman from Toulouse who visits René, a 91-year old living in a rural commune nearby, twice per week during her routes.

In her report which she shared with French media outlet FranceInfo, she detailed his concerns about a lack of heating, after his boiler stopped working. Information such as this is passed on to the relevant services.

Last year, Alexia informed La Poste that René was feeling sick, allowing the local authorities to provide extra temporary care.

“They [the post office workers] are nice people,” said the 91-year old. “We spend some time together.”

However other services, such as the number of postboxes, have been reduced in rural areas, due to La Poste’s financial situation.

Read more: Removal of post boxes hits rural areas in France hardest

La Poste of course still retains its role as the national postal service for people sending and receiving parcels and letters, either in France or overseas.

Services such as forwarding post to a new address (including outside of France) and setting up proxies to collect mail and parcels remain possible.

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