March 12, 2014
A hub of the future
There are more than 1,400 post office branches across Scotland. Everybody agrees that this network is a vital part ofthe country’s social and economic fabric but there’s less clarity about how best to exploit the potential benefits of this national asset. At a time of continuing branch closure (30% since 2000), it’s ever more urgent that they diversify into new areas. The RSA has just produced a report proposing a new business model for Post Office branches that would deliver greater benefit locally and generate new income for the business.
To download full report click here
The Post Office network has faced significant challenges in recent years, including the decline of the high street and the advent of the internet. Yet the network’s future could be transformed by supporting branches to become more entrepreneurial. It will be essential for branches to experiment with new business models.
The RSA, supported by Post Office Ltd., set out to ask how local Post Offices can do more for their communities while also generating much needed revenue. In the context of a new trend in the UK towards the ‘local’, characterised by a growing microbusiness community and the development of community-based approaches to public service reform, we argue that Post Offices are ideally placed to become ‘Community Enterprise Hubs’ which for instance provide business support to maker communities but also meet the needs of the UK’s ageing population and isolation among older people.
The Post Office has already taken several steps towards supporting Sub-postmasters to engage in entrepreneurial activities – including through a Community Enterprise Fund as well as a £2 billion investment in modernising local branches. But Post Office branches could benefit from learning from the experience of pioneering branches that have already become Community Enterprise Hubs.
Making the Connection: Local Post Offices as Community Enterprise Hubs recommends that Post Office branches build on their trusted brand and provide a range of new activities, including:
• Business support to the growing number of home-based businesses and SME’s.
• Selling local firms’ products and supporting fledgling entrepreneurs
• Providing access to the internet and digital training courses
• Advice on affordable finance or changes to welfare, including the introduction of Universal Credit and personal budgets in social care
• Providing employment and training opportunities to local people
• Co-hosting public services such as local health centres, running prescription collections services and passing on messages to GPs