The Post Office wishes to transfer 40 Crown Post Offices, including Scarborough, and 33 Post Office franchises to WHSmith retail stores.
WHSmith have signalled they are very pleased with the idea, the move will mean greater footfall to their stores. Indeed, how could they not go for it?
But with respect, that is not really the story.
The much bigger elements are why has no-one considered the effect on the people of Scarborough, and the town’s diversity if the Aberdeen Road Post Office were to disappear, and why has the resulting service levels not been considered in the light of increasing bank closures?
A feature of any vibrant diversified high street is the Post Office.
It gives the town centre a sense of gravity, a place to visit, a link to history, and future, for visitors to transact business then to shop around locally.
This identity would be disappeared behind the WHSmith’s shop front taking out an important side-street destination.
“Scarborough’s lost our Post Office” would be the overall perception.
WHSmith’s CEO Stephen Clarke said “(The) arrangement was attractive to the Post Office because WHSmith stores cost less to rent and run.”
The Post Office has said they want to reduce retail costs.
How does WHSmith get better rates for their stores than the Post Office achieves for their premises is the first question to ask.
The second one is why is the Post Office apparently not routinely challenging high running costs with their store providers?
Many other retail organisations certainly are.
What nobody appears to have considered, is the high rate of bank closures.
When a bank closes a branch, its excuse is that customers can then go to a Post Office to draw out and pay in, never mind the loss of other services.
At present in the UK 10% of branches (757 locations) are being closed each year, and the trend is accelerating.
Therefore, if the (from memory) six Aberdeen Road counters were squeezed somewhere inside the very crowded WHSmith’s Westborough store ground floor, and three of Scarborough’s nine banks, (Natwest Whitby, and Barclays Filey anyone?) each with two to five counters, were to close over the next 48 months, how would the space-challenged counters service the visitors?
And for anybody queuing inside Aberdeen Road at the moment, how on earth would WHSmith’s cope with Christmas?
For example, Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart has already said he would “take a lot of convincing” given the queues already in the WHSmith’s on Toll Gavel in the town (Beverley presently has 11 banks).
Perhaps the last point should come from York MP Rachael Maskell: “Every city centre should have a Crown Post Office, but to lose this vital service in a city such as York is a travesty.
“It downgrades the importance of York, and it demonstrates contempt for residents.”
Does this not also apply to the historic town of Scarborough?
South Cliff, Scarborough