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The Post Office is hoping to cash-in on the e-shopping revolution with an ambitious plan to make deliveries more flexible.

A trial scheme encompassing 1000 post offices in Bristol, Bath, Taunton, Torquay and Exeter goes live today and enables consumers to nominate their local Post Office branch as an alternative address for the delivery of parcels, packages and items needing a signature.

It's hoped consumers won't be inconvenienced if goods are delivered to their homes when they're at work - giving them the freedom, instead, to pick up items ordered online when it suits them.

With 18,500 post offices up and down the country and nine out of ten people living within a mile of one, convenience is certainly a major issue. Of course, for punters to benefit companies would have to send their goods through Royal Mail or Parcel Force - as opposed to some other carrier.

David Taylor, the Post Office's MD, Home Shopping, said: "This is a major trial designed to give people who shop from home, whether it be through catalogues, the internet, interactive TV or by phone, even greater choice over the delivery of goods they have ordered."

The trial is due to end in March 2001 and if successful, could be rolled out across the rest of the country later in the year. However, such a service would not be offered for free. A spokesman for the Post Office declined to say how much extra it would cost insisting that it would be a "modest premium".

In July Express Dairies said it intended to establish a new e-commerce home delivery service in partnership with fulfilment outfit m-box by using its flotilla of milk floats to deliver goods. The service is still in its planning stage, according to a milkmaid. ®

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