Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Business / Freefield around one third busier since post office changes at other side of town

The entrance to the Toll Clock Shopping Centre, which houses Freefield Post Office. Photo: Shetland News

THE FREEFIELD Post Office in Lerwick has seen demand rise by around 30 per cent since the town’s other office closed and moved into a newsagent’s.

Freefield operator Brian Smith also said that last December was 50 per cent up on the previous year.

Post Office Ltd decided to close its crown office at the south end of Commercial Street last year, with services moving into a franchised outlet within Conochies.

Despite the Post Office saying at the time it would increase opening hours, the move proved unpopular with some.

This week it was confirmed the Conochies post office had temporarily closed due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

Note: Post Office Ltd announced on Friday (20 August) that the the post office at Conochies has re-opened as of this morning.

The owner of Conochies said he could not comment on the matter as per contractual obligations, and referred the matter to Post Office Ltd’s media team.

The post office closing led to some on social media criticising the layout of the building, and parking opportunities for disabled people.

Speaking to Shetland News on Thursday, Freefield’s Brian Smith said his own post office had seen a marked increase in mail handling transactions since the change last year.

It has meant that the post office is now as busy as it was around ten years ago, after suffering a dip in demand, which Smith said was possibly down to certain transactions stopping – like green Giro cheques.

But Smith said customers have also been taking the opportunity to air their views about the changes to the Commercial Street provision.

“We’ve had to deal with complaints almost on a daily basis over the last six months about that office,” he said.

Smith reiterated that he continues to make a loss on the postal service – relying on his Clocktower gift shop business, located in the same room, to pick up the footfall.

“I have two staff working on the post office counter constantly, and the amount the Post Office pays me isn’t enough to cover the cost of those two staff members – let along paying the rent, or the rates or the electric,” Smith said.

He sympathised with other franchise operators – like Conochies – for the income provided by Post Office Ltd to run outlets.

Smith added that both of the Lerwick offices are on the same contract – “there is no main post office for Shetland, or anything like that”.

Smith also said he has tried to seek funding for disabled access into the Freefield Post Office, which is located in between stairs, but he has hit dead ends because Post Office Ltd is a private company.

It means that without the Conochies service there is effectively no Post Office in Lerwick at the moment with disabled access.

Smith said he has spent months trying to organise disabled access into the building.

“As an independent business I can’t justify the expense of over £20,000 installing a lift into my business giving access to a service that loses me money,” he said.

“Although it is something I would love to try and get installed, financially I just can’t afford it – and there’s no help being offered from any source. Apart from Post Office, who did offer to partially fund it, but it still left me with a giant shortfall.

“Unless there’s help found somewhere, then it’s not going to be happening any time soon.”