The Government-funded initiative is to modernise up to 8,000 agency branches, to support rural community branches and to maintain our extensive UK network of 11,500 Post Offices. So far the programme has added over 150,000 extra opening hours each week, including 3000 branches open on Sundays, cutting waiting times and improving the service for customers.
Caterways on the outskirts of Horsham did not have a Post Office but with two new housing developments built nearby we identified an opportunity to expand our branch network.
There was a suitable Londis convenience store at the heart of that community, with an enthusiastic new owner – an award-winning Postmaster, Ramesh Shingadia – who was keen to take on a new Post Office.
Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Intellectual Property “cut the ribbon” today to officially open Caterways Post Office.
Postal Affairs Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said: “The Government is helping Post Office to modernise its network, bringing about benefits for customers and postmasters while securing its future. We have invested nearly £2 billion to sustain and transform the network and I am pleased to open this branch, particularly to celebrate reaching the 5,000 modernised post offices milestone.”
Post Offices are being modernised to be lighter, brighter and improved layout to make our branches more welcoming and professional and to make better use of space within a store.
Postmasters have also increased their opening hours to make it more convenient for customers to visit. Many branches now open seven days a week from early until late, including Caterways Post Office, which is now open Monday – Sunday: 6.30am – 10pm - an impressive 108 hours and 30 minutes a week.
Our investment programme has seen branches modernised at their existing or new locations, either with the established Postmaster or a newly recruited Postmaster. Whether long-serving or new to the business these Postmasters all have a crucial role to play to create a Post Office network that meets customer needs, both now and into the future, and secures the long-term viability of The Post Office without Government subsidy.
Post Office Chief Executive, Paula Vennells said: “Transforming our network of Post Offices is crucial to our organisation’s goal of achieving commercial sustainability while preserving our critical social purpose. We have come a long way transforming 5,000 branches so far and our customers are reaping the benefit of branches with modern retail environment with longer opening hours. We continue to work with our existing postmasters and potential new operators to complete our transformation programme. We remain committed to maintaining the size of our network and we are seeing new branches opening in communities like Caterways and others will be announced over the next few months.”
Ramesh Shingadia and his family have run Southwater Londis for many years. Last year they took on Southwater Post Office to safeguard the vital community service and they have not looked back since. This year they opened a Londis store in The Parade, Caterways and they didn’t hesitate when the opportunity arose to open a new Post Office in Caterways. Son Alpesh is the manager at Caterways.
Mr Shingadia, said: “I am delighted to open a Post Office at my Caterways store. It is a marriage made in heaven having a Post Office and convenience store combined. My existing customers and the whole community were thrilled to hear the news they were getting a Post Office. It will make their lives much easier having a Post Office which is open seven days a week from early until late, with lots of free parking. The new branch removes the need for customers to travel into town to do most of their Post Office transactions.”
The new Caterways Post Office is one of our new style local branches with a low-screened, open-plan Post Office service point carefully integrated into the retail counter, which can offer a wide range of Post Office transactions alongside retail purchases. Horsham Crown branch continues to provide the full range of Crown Post Office services.
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Notes to editors
In 2012 we announced an investment of £1.34bn for the Post Office network to undertake a transformation programme across 6000 branches. In November 2013 the Government announced a further £640m investment in the Post Office network: as well as allowing us to modernise a further 2000 branches this funding also allows us to invest £20 million in around 3400 community branches, which are often the last shop in the village.
With over 11,500 branches, the Post Office network is the biggest retail network in the UK, with more branches than all the banks and building societies combined. 97% of Post Office branches are run with retail partners on an agency or franchise basis.
The Post Office provides services central to peoples’ everyday lives; 99.7% of the population lives within 3 miles of a Post Office - 17m customers visit a Post Office branch each week, including a third of the UK’s small businesses.
We offer the UK’s largest fee free cash withdrawal network through our 11,500 branches and an additional 2,500 cash machines and 99 per cent of UK bank customers can access their accounts at the Post Office. We sell 170 different products and services spanning financial services including savings, insurance, loans, mortgages and credit cards; Government services; telephony; foreign currency; travel insurance and mail services.
In December 2014 Ramesh Shingadia scooped top honour in a prestigious national independent retailer award - Overall Best Shop award in the Independent Achievers Academy (IAA). Southwater Londis was also finalist in four of the IAA categories, winning three of them - Shop Layout, Marketing to Customers and Staff Development.
About the Post Office
The Post Office (Post Office Limited) has an unrivalled national network of over 11,500 branches across the UK, more than all the high street banks combined, and sits at the heart of communities in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. The Post Office has made a commitment to maintaining its network of branches at its current size and reach. It provides around 170 different products and services spanning financial services including savings, insurance, loans, mortgages and credit cards; Government services; telephony; foreign currency; travel insurance and mail services.
The Post Office serves over 17 million customers a week and a third of small businesses. Some 99.7% of the total population live within three miles of a post office and over 97% live with one mile of a post office. For many rural communities, the post office is the only retail outlet. Post Offices branches remain highly valued and trusted, and are the focal point of many communities. For more information, visit http://www.postoffice.co.uk/.
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