Pursuing innovation, being at the forefront of society, cooperating throughout Europe: that’s how it has always been for us. For over 200 years we've been delivering mail in the Netherlands and beyond, first as the only mail carrier, today as the premier postal service in the Netherlands.
Foundation for a modern postal company
Mail has been around forever. It wasn’t until the 18th century, however, during the French occupation of the Netherlands (1795 - 1815), that the Dutch government felt that the state should take responsibility for the conveyance of mail.
Our postal company was established in 1799, following the French model. Legislation soon followed: the first Postal Act in 1807 awarded us exclusive rights to collect, convey and deliver mail. The amended Postal Act of 1850 recognised the public service nature of mail, which led to rates being reduced by a third.
Meanwhile, mail delivery was speeding up and becoming ever more modern. In 1844, we signed a`with the railways to transport mail by train.
And in 1852 we introduced the postage stamp following the British example. This way a lot of time and money could be saved, because mailmen no longer had to collect delivery fees at the door.
An important milestone came at the turn of the century, in 1897, when our ability to reach right into the remote Biesbosch wetlands meant that we could now serve the whole of the Netherlands.
A rapid succession of developments
Things really speed up at the start of the 20th century. Mail is now being transported by plane as well. In 1927, a Fokker F.VII named the “Postduif” (carrier pigeon) flies from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies in just ten days.
The first automatic sorting machine is installed in 1931. A move born out of necessity, as the 1930s were marked by the Great Depression and we were under pressure to cut costs. A more commercial attitude was needed. This results in the launch of our first advertising campaigns under our new name, PTT.
After the Second World War reconstruction begins. Mail is flourishing and the distribution network branches out further. In the 1960s, the growing postal volumes are being processed in distribution centres that are fewer in number but growing in size.
In the 1970s, the postcode is a welcome addition that helps to simplify a complicated postal process. In 1980, automation well and truly arrives in the form of optical character recognition, which means addresses can now be “read” automatically.
As a result of increased automation and the latest technological advances, like the fax, the view of our role as an organisation is changing. We are no longer just a public institution, but also a company aiming to make a profit. In 1989, the company is incorporated: the state-run enterprise PTT becomes Royal PTT Netherlands (Koninklijke PTT Nederland: KPN).
Events in the 1990s continue the trend: mail offices are privatised (1993), KPN is listed on the stock exchange (1994), and the Australian company TNT is obtained through acquisition (1996). On the eve of the new millennium, KPN is split to form a telecommunications company (KPN) and a mail, express and logistics company (TNT Post Group: TPG).
The digital era
At the start of the 21st century, two trends combine to create a challenging environment, One is increasing digitisation, which causes the volume of mail to decline rapidly. The other is liberalisation of the postal market, with new postal companies arriving on the scene. The result is less mail being delivered by more postal companies. So, in the early years of the 21st century we drastically restructured our activities. In 2006 we changed our name to TNT Post.
We tackle increasing digitisation head on by offering new services, for example the online billing and direct mail services launched in 2005. With the introduction of the QR Code for DM campaigns in 2009, we showed that physical mail and digitisation can go hand in hand. This code printed on the DM item directs smartphone users to the commercial website.
In all this progress, we have never lost sight of our responsibility to society. In 2002, we formed a partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) , and in 2007 we launched Planet Me.
Meanwhile, the strategic profiles of our two major divisions, Mail and Express, continue to diverge. This leads to a decision to demerge TNT Express in 2011, while our company continues under a new name: PostNL.