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Belgian mail turns to sports stores to ease parcel overload


By Bart Biesemans and Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium's post office has teamed up with the country's largest sports store chain as a shift to online purchases accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic has left it overloaded with packages.

Postal operator bpost is, like counterparts across the world, facing an unprecedented level of parcel deliveries as coronavirus restrictions have closed shops and confined people to their homes.

The postal service has hired an extra 3,000 temporary workers, increased deliveries to two per day in parts of the country and agreed a deal with sports chain Decathlon for Belgians to pick up some of their packages at its stores.

The Belgian postal service had to handle 78% more parcels in the second quarter of 2020 than a year earlier and last week hit a record of more than 600,000 packages delivered in a day.

Most non-food shops in Belgium were closed for two months in the first COVID-19 wave and for a month in the second wave, fuelling the rise in online purchases. Shops only reopened on Tuesday.

Amazon said that independent businesses selling on its platform crossed $4.8 billion in worldwide sales from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, an increase of 60% from a year earlier.

Bpost says it still aims to deliver 95% of parcels, with only 5% needing to be picked up from Decathlon and other stores around the country.

(Writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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