Retailers who lost their Post Office counters in the wave of closures a year ago have adapted their businesses to make up the missing income and provide a better service for customers.

Mollie and Dennis Ingrey, who own Stanton St John Stores in Oxfordshire, saw their post office close last June and have since revamped their store. "We installed an ATM and PayPoint machine, which meant we had to pay a £2,500 waiver to the Post Office, but it means that customers can still pay bills and get cash," said Mollie.

"We used the extra space to create a hot food area for the store," she added. "It's been very successful and we're now looking to grow our fresh food offerings further."

Mollie said that although she and her husband miss the Post Office wages, business hasn't suffered. "Our custom was mostly people looking for stamps and withdrawing money, which they can still do here anyway."

Ken Parsons of the Rural Shops Alliance said that the removal of a Post Office could represent a good opportunity

for stores. "Retailers can use the space to extend their ranges or even create food-to-go or coffee shop offerings. We have seen lots of stores use this situation to really grow their business," he said.

Colin and Moira Heiron made a voluntary decision to close the counter at their Lower Coombe store in Teignmouth, Devon.

"It just wasn't viable anymore - the wages worked out at less than minimum wage for us if we had someone in part time helping us," said Colin.

The couple instead added an alcohol section and began opening until 8pm. "It's been working well so far," Colin said. "We'll give it some more time and then look into adding more new services to the store."