The Post Office has angered sub-postmasters by telling them they must smarten up their premises at their own expense or risk losing new business.

As part of its reinvention strategy, the Post Office plans to revamp its image and introduce new financial services such as personal loans, credit cards and motor and life insurance. And chief executive David Mills said that post office branches that were shabby would not be given the new business.

“We feel our customers want a modern retail environment,” a Post Office spokeswoman said. “We want them to choose the Post Office for products and services rather than feeling that they have to come in for
products such as passports and driving licences.”

But Canterbury sub-postmaster and executive officer of the National Federation of Sub-postmasters John Willshaw said he was angered at what he said was blackmail by the Post Office.

“We’ve had no remuneration increase from the Post Office in five years and some sub-postmasters are on the breadline. How are they going to re-brand without some financial help?” He added: “Current investment does not give returns. The magic jam tomorrow will not pay for the cost today.”

Rural Shops Alliance national manager Sean Carter said rural post offices had been suffering a lack of investment for some years and some did not project a good image. However, under the current remuneration package he said it would be difficult for sub-postmasters to pay for improvements and the new corporate image.

“A better looking post office should attract more business, but the Post Office needs to give help and incentives to sub-postmasters to make changes,” said Carter.

But the Association of Convenience Stores chief executive David Rae said the Post Office was missing the point. “Instead of putting pressure on shabby outlets they need to develop relationships with new retailers by providing incentives and benefits,” said Rae.

“There are lots of excellent c-stores who could be working with the Post Office. However they are reluctant because the contractual agreement is too one-sided and restrictive. The Post Office needs to offer a better contract to attract better retail outlets.”
Sean McAllister