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Relocating the Village Post Office - The Debate

On this page we will be posting exchanges of views from villagers regarding the proposals for relocating the Post Office into the Village Stores, or elsewhere.  If you would like your opinions to be included, please e-mail to myron.edwards@talktalk.net.

Please note, you can also express your views on our Blog and FaceBook pages - just follow the links on the Home page.  See also "Frequently Asked Questions" at http://www.brightwellcumsotwell.co.uk/news_item.php?wnID=10463

Click here to view a .pdf of the proposed layout of the Shop / Post Office.

Contents

1) Comments from the former manager of the Village Stores

2) Respose to 1) from Jim Sanger

3) An account of Garry McCracken's visit to Marcham Village Community Shop

4) Comments (from the blog) by former resident Karen Brooks

5) Questions as a result of the projections circulated by the Management Committee on 29 January 2016.

6) Analysis of Village Stores Projections by the Management Committee


1) From Stephanie - former manager of The Village Stores (posted to our blog page):

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

2) Response to the above from Jim Sanger:

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

3) Visit to Marcham Village Community Shop

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.

Jim Sanger

4) Post to the blog from Karen Brooks

Dear Brightwell residents, I grew up in your village, my mum still lives there, ( you will all know her and my step dad too) my dad is in the churchyard, and my sisters all went to school there! I have been following your debate about having a local post office with interest, as I am also a postmaster over in Blewbury! We have community status there, which would be a lot better for you, but don't think that this option is available any more.
However, having a post office in your village, however small, is a huge bonus to the people who live and work there, the ability to have access to financial services is a lifeline to many of our residents here, they can then buy their groceries and pay for services like window cleaners, gardeners and maybe the cleaning lady if they are lucky enough to have one, without going into "town" , and be as independent as possible. They can pay their bills, post letters and parcels, and will bring footfall into your shop.

I know the thought of undergoing the post office training is daunting for many, yes there are ongoing tests for all that will work there, but it's all quite straightforward really, there is a national helpline available all the time, all the local postmasters are just a phone call away for instant help & support, (& we do help, honestly).
I have a simple system of cash & stock control, which makes life easy for the 2 of us who work in our PO, yes we are liable for any losses, but they are usually minor, and most of the time we are over in our cash, which covers any shortfall that arises! We have had a couple of major " muck ups" but they were put right after a couple of weeks, as we could remember the customer, and knew where they lived!

You will have full training, and I am always happy to come over and help, or be on the end of a phone for you!
Post Office services are a lifeline for village life, for young and old, and everyone in between, it keeps our village alive, people come in to us for money to spend in our village, instead of going into town, and then spending it there, which is what will happen if you lose your PO completely,

Love from Karen xx


5) Questions as a result of the projections circulated by the Management Committee on 29 January 2016.

Financial

Summary

The Management Committee's projections are largely based on obtaining a 15% increase in sales in 2016 over 2015 (never before achieved), incurring no extra costs as the result of taking in the Post Office Local and restraining the growth in trading expenses to 2.5%. The attached analysis shows how a variation of these assumptions can significantly and adversely alter the outcome by some £6,900 in 2016.

The following questions therefore also arise

  1. The growth in turnover over the last three years has been 0.3%, 5.0% and 0.12%. How does the Management Committee justify the increase of 15% projected for 2016, three times greater than ever achieved before and more than £450 every week? How do they justify the further growth above that level in 2017 and 2018 of 10% and 5%?

  2. Has any allowance been made in salaries for the Government's increase in the minimum wage or for holiday cover or compulsory pensions.

  3. Marketing expenditure has reduced since the last published accounts for 2014 by 39%. If the Management Committee are projecting an increase in sales of 15% in 2016 and further growth in subsequent years, is this reduction in marketing expenditure realistic?

  4. General expenses have reduced by 45% since 2014 and are projected to stay at the low level. Is this justified?

  5. No provision has been made for the hire of storage space, stated as being necessary for the inclusion, at least, of the Post Office Local. How much is this likely to cost? We understand that the Post Offlice was paying £2,160 per year to the Village Hall.

  6. Has any provision been made for the liability for any shortfall in the takings of the Post Office Local which is understood to be the responsibility of the Village Stores?

General questions

Summary

In spite of the extensive question and answer document circulated by the Management Committee, there are still a number of questions which need to be clarified if members are to make an informed decision on Tuesday 2 February. The needed clarification to some of the questions (adopting the numbering used by the Management Committee) is detailed below.

Question number

1.What is the quorum for the Management Committee? How many attended the meeting which supported the Post Office Local proposal?

3.How much was included in salaries costs in 2015 for overtime and holiday cover? Does the Management Committee believe that this will be sufficient in 2016 if the Post Office Local is moved into the Village Stores?

4.Has the Management Committee received any quotations for the alterations demanded by the Post Office? If so, how much will the proposed alterations cost?

5.Assuming that the counter will have been moved, the Management Committee may decide that it will need to be moved back to its present position if the contract is terminated in eighteen months time. Will the Post Office cover this? If not, how much is the “small cost which the shop will have to meet”?

7.Where was the cost of the sale of stamps included in the fact sheet already distributed?

9.You state in the fact sheet that “more storage space will be required in both scenarios”. Is the Management Committee now saying that no storage space will be needed for the inclusion of the Post Office Local in the Village Stores?

12 and 14.Creditors at 31 December 2014 were £11,431.72. You state that they are now £4,631.36, a reduction of £6,800.36, presumably paid out of the bank account. Cash at bank and in hand has, however, increased by at least £1,672.87. Where has this additional funding of £8,473.23 come from?

16.Does the Management Committee accept that there is a risk to the Village Stores if there is a shortfall in calculated takings, as has occurred in other Post Office Locals, the responsibilty for which is understood to fall on the Village Stores?

17.If the Post Office Local is moved into the Village Stores, how long will the Village Stores be closed? Has the cost of this in lost revenue been factored in to the projections?

22.Do the plans for the relocation of the counter take into account the need for seating space currently provided for, and needed by, customers of the Post Office?

23 and 24.It is understood that the current paid staff are not in favour of the Post Office Local being moved into the Village Stores. Consequently, there is likely to be the expense of hiring new staff. Has this been allowed for in the projections?

28.As shown on the Village website, feedback from local shops seems to vary with some advising against accepting a Post Office Local. Have the Management Committee been to Marcham, for instance?

29.You have included accountancy services in your projections, does this mean that the Management Committee members will stop carrying out the shop office work on a voluntary basis?

30.You state that “...any perceived disadvantages …. is soon dispelled when the advantages become a reality in terms of business and community benefit”. Why, in that case, are at least two neighbouring shops advising against accepting a Post Office Local?

Jim Sanger

30 January 2016


6) Analysis of Village Stores Projections by the Management Committee







Estimated
Projected by Mgmt Ctee
Increase over previous year
Possible alternative 1
Possible alternative 2

















Actual 2014
2015
2016


2016
2016

Income growth over previous year
0.12%


15.00%
14.88%
5.00%
2.40%





























Income





























From trading
149,903.78
159,113.68
182,980.73
23,867.05
167,069.36
162,932.41






























Cost of goods sold

118,099.93
125,957.87
144,851.55
18,893.68
132,255.76
128,980.86















Gross margin from trading

31,803.85
33,155.81
38,129.18
4,973.37
34,813.60
33,951.55
















%
21.22%
20.84%
20.84%
0.00
20.84%
20.84%
















Post office local




3,000.00
3,000.00
3,000.00
3,000.00






























Expenditure


























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