Business

Post Office to move up to 61 branches to WH Smith

Post Office sign Image copyright PA

The Post Office plans to move up to 61 more branches into WH Smith stores over the next year.

The move is part of a new 10-year agreement to relocate more branches into the retailer's stores.

Just over half of the branches being moved are expected to be concessions run directly by the Post Office

WH Smith currently runs 107 Post Office branches in its stores. Separately, WH Smith reported an 11% rise in half-year pre-tax profits to £80m.

'Huge importance'

The plans to move the branches include some of the 39 directly-run Crown branches which the Post Office announced it would franchise in January.

Not all locations have been confirmed yet. Staff affected by the new agreement will be informed first about plans for their own branches when they are finalised.

Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells said: "We know that people place huge importance on the presence of a Post Office branch on their High Street.

"Our collaboration with WH Smith will help to secure this, as well as bring new investment into the network."

Roger Gale, general manager of the Post Office's Crown branch network, said WH Smith franchises had improved customer service and brought benefits, with most open Saturday afternoons and Sundays.

"The vast majority of the Post Office's network of 11,500 Post Office branches is already run on a franchise or agency basis," he said.

"Crown branches are still run by directly by the Post Office but factors such as high property costs and changing customer habits mean we have to consider new ways to provide our services in some locations."

Union unhappy

However, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) called the deal a "kick in the teeth" for Post Office workers.

"It is completely incongruous that WH Smith can run a major Post Office better than the Post Office itself. Our members do not wish to work for WH Smith, which has a track record of zero hours contracts and a minimum wage approach to resourcing," said CWU assistant secretary, Andy Furey.

"Crown Post Office workers are professional and dedicated to providing excellent customer service and this is a kick in the teeth for loyal hard-working individuals who simply want to work for the Post Office whilst providing a first class service to the public," he said.

'Best performance'

WH Smith said its first half earnings were driven by strong performances from both its High Street and travel divisions.

Sales at High Street stores open for more than a year were flat, halting years of declines, leading chief executive Stephen Clarke to describe it as "our best performance for many years".

Elsewhere, increasing passenger numbers at railway stations and airports were cited at the continuing strong performance of WH Smith's travel division, with sales at stores open for more than a year up 5%.

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