Post offices most valued local service, new survey finds

04 August 2017

People want to see more post offices, specialist food shops, forecourts and convenience stores where they live and fewer betting shops, pawnbrokers, charity shops and fast food takeaways, according to a new report out today (August 4).

There are also calls for more banks, restaurants, pharmacies and pubs and bars and non-food retailers, like hardware and clothing shops, says the Community Barometer Report published the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

The survey, of UK consumers and local councillors, showed that the top three services which have the most positive impact locally are post offices, convenience stores and specialist food shops, such as butchers and bakeries.

The ACS said that in recent years, more c-stores have been including post offices as part of their overall offering, as well as developing deli counters and fresh meat from local suppliers and so were helping to bridge the gap left by the declining number of specialist food stores.

The report shows a gulf between retailers and local councillors on what should be the key policies to support local shops. Reducing business rates is the number one priority for retailers, while rates only ranked fifth for councillors, who believed investment in improving amenities in local shopping areas was the top priority.

Other key demands by retailers include a great police presence in their area and investment in better public transport and road networks. The number one priority for local residents was reduced car parking charges.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Despite the continuing growth of online shopping and the range of services being provided for consumers on the internet, it is clear that the British public still value the contribution that convenience stores and local post offices make to communities. The decline in the number of specialist stores like pharmacies, bakeries and banks has been picked up in part by convenience stores looking to increase the range of services they offer, especially in isolated and rural areas. The modern convenience store sector is now as much about providing essential services as it is traditional groceries.”

Kevin Gilliland, Chief Executive - Retail at  Post Office said: “It’s extremely rewarding to see that both consumers and local councillors, who are at the heart of communities, have voted our services as having the most positive impact in local areas.

“This report highlights the continued and essential role that post offices play in communities throughout the UK. With a trusted network of 11,500 branches, and with 99.7% of people in the UK living within just three miles of a post office, we are uniquely placed to bring a range of vital services to people across the country – from convenience retail and banking services as well as mails, government services and bill payments. And it’s not just customers who see the benefits of our services: local economies gain around £300,000 of value from a post office being located near a high street.

“Particularly when it comes to banking, post office branches can often be a real lifeline for households and small businesses within communities. In partnership with the banking industry, we have secured access to almost every UK bank account for our customers. So whether there is still a bank nearby, or whether a community is struggling with limited access to a bank, we are right there to offer a range of every day banking services in all our post office branches, from cash deposits and withdrawals, to balance enquiries.”