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POST OFFICE IN SHOP – LATEST

In the latest on the debate over the future of the Post Office, Stephanie, the stores' first manager, supports putting a Post Office Local in the shop. We have Jim Sanger's reply. Meanwhile Steve Luck, chairman of the Village Hall Trustees, says they are happy for it to stay where it is.

Steph's  open letter is reproduced below, followed by Jim Sanger's reply:

Dear Brightwell committee and EGM

Although I am not directly involved with the project anymore, it is something which will always remain close to my heart. The potential and the success of the business, still is important to me and l try to attend your many fundraising activities and celebrations.

Since I have left, I have remained in touch with several members of the committee, volunteers and on occasions bumped into numerous customers out and about. The question which I am repeatedly asked is

“and what do you think about the whole post office idea ?”

Firstly, I am touched that they still value my opinion, but I really wanted to take this opportunity to express my personal thoughts in this area. As I said, I know I am no longer your appointed manager but I hope that as I have been there from the early stages of the project, and put in place many of the procedures, introduced companies and created many ideas that still remain today, I hope you value my opinion. Also people seem to forget I have 20 years’ retail experience under my belt, 6 years being in the non-profit sector.

I have been a postmistress in the past and I do believe that a post office adds huge potential to a shop. When I worked for Glenn at Clifton Hampden, he always said that the post office made his business the success it was (Annual turnover £500,000) and obviously his dedication. He always said that Brightwell shop would benefit from a post office, as he was adamant that the post office brings in more customers, and I would have to agree. Although people may argue you that those customers may only use the post office, it is actually the opportunity and impulse buys that the post office brings which will see your sales increase. Although Joe Blogs may only get his pension from you on a Monday, Joe Blogs may have a visitor on the Tuesday who makes a passing comment about needing an essential item, Joe Blogs says that he has seen that down the local shop and an opportunity has arisen. Creating impulse buys at the counter when your post office users come in, is also an excellent way to increase sales. You could finally do a good supply of stationery items which we steered away from in the past. We also found at Clifton Hampden that local businesses loved using the small post office as the larger post offices were often busy, difficult to access and we could offer a personal service as we got to know their requirements. There was also the added bonus that they would often come in in their lunch hour so this would mean they would grab a bite to eat too. You could go around to local businesses and say that Brightwell post office is open, easy parking, great service and you could then also increase your ‘lunch’ ranges, even the possibility of hot take away soup, I believe the opportunities are endless.

I am sure these things have already been pointed out and discussed but if the post office does go and is not put into the shop, how do you propose your banking is done? How do you intend to get change on the spur of the moment? To pay a member of staff to go to Wallingford which could take up to an hour, by the time you have found a space to park, park and then queue in the post office to bank your takings, in my mind seems ludicrous, when you could bank this at your own shop, at your convenience. you can use the post office for change instead of the bank, where you will incur bank charges for change requests. You also have to think of health and safety, firstly the safety of that person possibly carrying 2/3 days’ takings in a handbag through Wallingford. You could also argue keeping 3 to 4 days banking in the safe on the premises is dangerous and insurance would have to be checked. You must also remember the person travelling with the money in their own car, would be liable, they would have to change their insurance use.

I know your argument against all of the above would be that the post office would hold more than 3 to 4 days banking. However, with the post office you automatically get the security, safety measures, insurances and procedures put in place and your insurance would accommodate all these new ‘stock’ levels.

It is daunting with a new computer system and not everyone will be capable of using it but I think that’s where clever management comes in to play and the possibility of a subcommittee for the post office alone. Also you may have a select few that would like to run the post office and you can set up an individual rota system, three rings has the capacity to undertake this.

What slightly baffles me is you are a bunch of determined community and business minded people and I thought this would be right up your street! I think you need to think long and hard before you dismiss this idea as I’m not sure the opportunity will come along again!

Good luck with making your decision

Best regards

Stephanie

Jim Sanger replies:

I was very interested to read Steph's letter about the Clifton Hampden Shop and am really grateful for her continued interest in the Village Stores.

The Clifton Hampden shop has a turnover that is more than three times that of ours and relies a great deal on passing trade. Steph's experience there was under the previous Post Office contract which expired some time ago. I understand that the Clifton Hampden shop (privately owned) was offered a Post Office Local but refused it. It fought hard and now consists of a Community Village Store and a Post Office approached through the shop but located in a separate and secure space which ensures privacy.

Jim Sanger

Jim has since added the following comment:

You may be interested to know that Garry McCracken has visited Marcham Village Community Shop. It is located a few yards from the junction of the A415 convenient for the passing trade, in a larger village than ours, has a large store room at the back about the same size as the shop which is slightly larger than ours – so effectively in total more than double our size. Its turnover is about £180,000 a year, about £30,000 larger than ours and the commission it receives from the Post Office Local about £7,000 a year, double what is expected at Brightwell-cum-Sotwell.

It has been running a Post Office Local for some two years and, asked if they would do it again, a spokesman said that they would not. Onerous accounting daily, liability for any shortfalls (a threatened £400) and “challenging” training for volunteers were given as three of the reasons.

Would they advise Brightwell-cum-Sotwell to do it? No, being smaller it would be even more difficult to make it pay.

Meanwhile, The Village Hall Trustees have issued the following statement:

'The present arrangement between the Village Hall and the Post Office, located in the Stewart Room at the back of the Village Hall, has been running successfully since March 2009. Prior to that it was in the Red Lion for 3 years. The Trustees of the Village Hall would like to express their gratitude and thanks to Mr Mike Powell (postmaster) and his team for the service they have provided for the community over the years.

This arrangement was a commercial one, with the Post Office hiring space from the Village Hall. This has provided a significant income to the running of the Village Hall and the location has been a good one for users. On the occasions there was a queue, customers had the opportunity of using the chairs in the Stewart Room. It is true that the Post Office booth/counter virtually rendered the Stewart Room unusable for the number of people and use for which it was built, but it provided a service for the community and we feel it has been a worthwhile sacrifice.

'The Trustees would like it known that if it was possible they would be happy to continue to provide space within the Village Hall for a Post Office with a similar ongoing arrangement.'


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