Consumer use of post offices
The use of mail services has fallen dramatically in recent decades as people, businesses and the government move more communication online. So what role do post offices play in 2017? And what services do different consumers use?
This report is a comprehensive review of how consumers use post offices today, based on telephone interviews with 2,000 consumers and 1,000 small businesses.
We find that post offices remain important. The vast majority of consumers (97%) and small businesses (93%) still use post offices. Most are frequent users and visit at least once a month. Consumers not only use the Post Office but also see it as relevant: fewer than 1 in 5 believe that it is outdated.
Mail services are used more than any other service (by 96% of all consumers), with stamps and letter postage purchased most widely. Parcel posting and mail order transactions are also becoming increasingly common as consumers make more use of online commerce.
Post offices provide other important non-mail services. Half of all consumers have used the Passport Check and Send service at a post office. Nearly 3 in 4 consumers access at least 1 government service, while 1 in 5 use banking services. The number of consumers withdrawing state benefits and pensions in cash from a post office has declined, due to changes in the way benefits are paid and an increased use of bank accounts.
Our research shows that post offices are especially crucial in rural areas and for vulnerable groups including older people and people on low incomes. For example, small businesses based in rural areas are twice as likely to use banking services at post offices as those in urban areas.
It is also clear from the findings that distinct demographic groups use post offices differently. Younger people and those on higher incomes access parcel and mail order services more. Older people and those on low incomes make greater use of cash and banking services, and bill payments. The more vulnerable groups and remote rural residents make most use of post offices for informal community services such as information or as a social meeting place.
The current post office restructuring programme has focused on maintaining the number of post offices and extending opening hours. We found that most consumers still visit during the traditional 9am-5.30pm opening times, although 24% now also visit outside core hours. Our research also shows that, for key services, proximity is consistently and overwhelmingly the most important reason why post offices are used. Therefore, it is important that the government and Post Office Limited maintain the number of post office branches.
This report is based on a study commissioned by Citizens Advice:
Use of Essential Services Traditionally Provided at Post Offices [ 1.8 mb]