It’s the start of October 2015 and building works at Inkberrow are progressing well. If only I could say the same thing for our post office application. It’s fair to say that over the past few months we have been on a roller-coaster ride with the village folk and their beloved post office. But let’s start at the beginning.
When we first took over at Inkberrow one of our parish councillors and the local post office rep were immediately keen to woo us with the new Local model and the option of relocating the village’s existing post office into our store. I was happy; the appeal of being able to offer shoppers all services under one roof seemed perfect.
So began the arduous process of applying for the post office. After months of collating paperwork, adjusting business plans and having interviews I learned that the application was successful – the next step was the public consultation. A piece of cake, I thought.
At the monthly parish council meeting, normally attended by a handful of villagers, the hall was full, and I was asked to explain the reasoning behind my application, which I duly obliged: Relocating the post office into our store would give shoppers longer opening hours every day, and cement the future of the post office for years to come.
The public did not agree. They wanted things to stay the same, citing parking and security issues among others in opposition. Councillors had to bow to public pressure, and so did not support the relocation. We withdrew our application.
Within weeks, a BBC documentary aired highlighting the transformation of the Post Office. It explained how up and down the land the Post Office was moving into convenience stores in order to allow it adapt to consumer needs and remain competitive. The mood in the village changed and it dawned upon our customers that I had talked sense at the public meeting. However, it’s too late now.
A full refurbishment of a store is a costly exercise. When you design a store you factor in services and products you would like to offer. In our scenario, a public consultation before the application could have saved a lot of time and effort, not only in the application process but design, too. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!