CJ Lang has followed its bold move on briefly delisting The Telegraph over retailer terms by announcing that Spar Scotland is to withdraw Post Office services from 31 stores across Scotland later this year.
The decision came after 18 months of negotiation between the company and the Post Office. Spar Scotland said “the move to shut loss-making counters would help ensure the stores continued to operate”.
An official company statement said: “Following a further consultation period with Post Office it has been confirmed that Post Office services within several Spar stores across Scotland will close later this year. This decision has been carefully considered and comes after 18 months of negotiations with Post Office Limited. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in the position of having to change the services we offer over the next six months.”
“As part of the Spar Scotland company-owned stores estate, we will continue to invest in our staff to ensure our stores serve the communities in which they are based. We are constantly reviewing the services within our stores and the impact that Post Office counters have on our overall store operations. Unfortunately, in some instances it is not viable for us to continue to offer the service at our sites. We will however continue to operate Post Office counters at several Spar Scotland stores across our network. This is representative of the industry-wide pressures on retail outlets as we evolve to keep up with changing consumer habits.”
The Post Office has expressed its concern at elderly accessing its services and, unsurprisingly, a number of politicians have reportedly voiced strong objections, with Labour MSP Alex Rowley quoted in The Courier as saying “the retailer is driven purely by profit and could not care less about the people who use its services” although he then added that he promised to “speak to Post Office bosses in a bid to persuade them to open alternative services in affected communities. The Post Office has a duty to ensure people can get access to services.”
CJ Lang’s recent hard-line approach reflects growing industry-wide resentment towards the position that many local retailers find themselves in, having to offer important services and products to their communities but making little or no money in doing so – or worse, as in this case, of actually losing money on providing services to the public.
These are complex, highly nuanced issues that are difficult for the trade to understand and resolve, let alone customers – but the blame should not be laid squarely at the door of retailers. Local retailers across the UK, including Spar Scotland, do a fantastic job of serving the needs of their communities, and never more so than over the last year. Spar Scotland has taken a very difficult but entirely understandable decision – and it will be no surprise if other retailers follow suit on what they see as low- or no-margin products and services in future.