Postmasters and branch teams across the UK are delivering great customer service, find ways to innovate and excel in retail every day. The latest proof of this was at the Retail Industry Awards 2020 on 26 January, where the winners included many Post Office branches, recognising that they are among the best retailers in the country.
Awards were presented for several categories, including Post Office Retailer of the Year, for stores with a Post Office, which was presented by Amanda Jones, Retail and Franchise Network Director.
Congratulations to all Postmasters and branches who won or were highly commended.
- Caterways Post Office, South East region. Winners in Post Office Retailer of the Year Award (Independent) and Independent Retailer of the Year categories.
- Malone Road Post Office, Northern Ireland and South Wales region. Won Post Office Retailer of the year (Multiple)
- Buckley Post Office - North West and North Wales region. Highly commended in Post Office Retailer of the year.
- Cloughoge Post Office, Northern Ireland and South Wales region. Winners in Food-to-go Retailer of the Year, Independent Community Retailer of the Year, Sustainable Initiative of the Year and Highly Commended in Best Use of Technology and Store Manager of the Year
- Arbury Court Post Office, East of England region. Won Most Improved Store category.
- Enya McAteer, Jonesborough Post Office, Northern Ireland and South Wales region won Newcomer of the Year category.
- Dilan Patel, Moneyhill Parade Post Office, Greater London Region was Highly commended in Newcomer of the Year category
Why did they win?… read the judges comments and thoughts from our winning branches below
Caterways Post Office
Caterways Post Office, South East region. Winners in Post Office Retailer of the Year Award (Independent) and Independent Retailer of the Year categories.
Amish Shingadia took on a store, turned it around and made it into a real success story. The icing on the cake was adding a Post Office, which gave the convenience store the real edge over competitors. This really shows what can be achieved with a talented businessman at the helm who has invested in the business to get the right retail offering, investment in staff and really cares about great customer service and the community that he serves.
In mid-2015 Amish and his brother Alpesh took on the “worst” shop in Sussex according to a poll. There was a large part of the shop that was never used, empty shelves and out-of-date stock. Within six months the Shingadia family had invested in a major refit and changed the entire layout to make the most of the premises.
Postmaster Amish Shingadia said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won two awards. I have great retail offering and a hard-working team of staff. The Post Office also gives a big reason for the community to visit my convenience store as all the essential services are under one roof and we really care about our customers and the service we provide.”
One 2020 Retailer of the Year expert judge described Londis Caterways & Post Office as an “exceptional example of great retail fully integrated with Post Office services”.
Amish sees the store’s Post Office Local as its biggest single attraction and one that has successfully expanded the catchment area of the business. Around this, he has built a large food-to-go area that includes fresh bread, handmade sandwiches and pastries. The shop also contains more than 12 metres of fresh produce and chilled lines, which helps put shoppers in a positive frame of mind as they enter the store.
The retail offer, the high level of customer service and a strong community focus has seen the store’s retail sales grow by 12.5% a year and Post Office transactions up 15%. This is all despite stiff competition from several large multiples.
A judge said: “It’s a very professionally run, excellent business that continues to achieve very high standards and to deliver growth year on year. The community engagement is stand-out and the business takes full advantage of the latest technology.”
The judging panel also praised the store’s commitment to training. One judge commented: “The focus on staff development and responsibility for the growth of different areas of the business is exceptional. This is clearly a high performing business that has adapted well to the challenges facing the sector. It is not one to rest on its success and continues to seek out improvement.”
Another judge concluded: “This store's commitment to the local community is a significant factor in it not only surviving but thriving in the face of considerable competition from the multiple grocers. Coupled with the owner's undoubted enthusiasm, professionalism and willingness to invest, this adds up to a great example of an owner-manager totally committed to the community they serve.”
Malone Road Post Office
Malone Road Post Office, Northern Ireland and South Wales region. Won Post Office Retailer of the year (Multiple)
Malone Road Post Office has gone from strength-to-strength after opening three years ago. The store already served a diverse customer base including residents, local businesses and the nearby university campus, so the addition of a Post Office made perfect sense. The Post Office is also open every day from early until late, which makes it very convenient to visit.
The Post Office is situated inside a busy modern, forecourt store and it offers a shining example of a well-run, integrated business combining state-of-the-art grocery retail and express post office services for a wide range of on-the-go customers.
The Post Office has helped the business achieve an increase of 6% in retail sales and 3% in customer footfall.
One 2020 Retailer of the Year expert judge said: “The award submission was bursting with enthusiasm and commitment to customer service, demonstrating seamless integration between the retail side of the business and the Post Office.
The store is committed to maintaining high standards with staff training, huddles, coaching and hourly checks. It has cemented its place in the community with a wide range of creative activities and a hands-on approach to customer service, which includes making sure people get the right Post Office services.
There is also a strong community involvement and the store is involved in numerous good causes, and staff are fabulous at fundraising.
Arbury Court Post Office
Arbury Court Post Office, East of England region. Won Most Improved Store category.
Ronak Patel took over the loss-making store two years ago. It is now an independent Budgens. A major refurbishment of the store and Post Office was completed in 2019.
The Cambridge-based Postmaster and his experienced and knowledgeable long-serving Post Office team were also very worthy finalists in the Post Office Retailer of the Year category.
Budgens of Arbury was also a finalist in the Independent Retailer of the Year, large store 3,000 to 6,000sq ft category.
Mr Patel, said: “I am really delighted to have won the Most Improved store and reached the final for two other categories. The convenience store was dated. It had not had a face-lift for more than 10 years as it had been a loss-making store. I decided to invest in making improvements to ensure more people want to shop here and want to buy more products. It is a great location as we are not in the city centre and we have lots of free parking, so I could see big opportunities.”
He invested in the store to improve the appearance and layout of the store and its efficiency, which has really helped to boost business. Food sales have increased 50 per cent – with the big refurbishment, improved range and with the Coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Patel is very green-minded. He bought brand new environmentally-friendly lighting and chiller units which use far less energy as they have air current sleeves which retain the cold air even when customers open the doors. His electricity bill is now £3,000 less a month and within six years this saving alone will pay for the whole refit.
As part of a revamp improvements were made to the shelving, but without the need to replace the shelving to avoid unnecessary waste.
Additional shelving was added to increase the height of the shelves. This along with the new, taller chiller units, allowed Mr Patel to increase his retail range.
New electronic point of sale equipment replaced the tills with old-fashioned conveyor belts.
Mr Patel, said: “Business has gone crazy and with the pandemic I had to employ more staff. People wanted to stay local. They didn’t want to go into the city centre or the supermarkets and they welcomed the free parking. They felt comfortable in our store with the safety measures we introduced at the start and during the pandemic. We have also been busier in the Post Office too.”
Mr Patel is also very community-minded. During the Coronavirus pandemic he introduced free food deliveries for the vulnerable. There was already a food collection point for the local food bank in the store. However, during the pandemic the amount of food that he donates had increased five-fold.
The judging panel praised the brave move to refit the store and maintain good sales growth. One judge said: “A lot of thought has clearly gone into refitting a neglected store into one that will serve the needs of a diversified community.”
Dilan Patel, Moneyhill Parade Post Office
Dilan Patel, Moneyhill Parade Post Office, Greater London Region was Highly Commended in Newcomer of the Year category
After successfully training to be a pharmacist, Dilan instead decided to pursue his passion for business. Three years ago, he opened his first Welcome store, a franchise of Southern Co-op which is a regional, independent co-operative. He then added a Subway concession the year after and opened Moneyhill Parade Post Office at these premises in January 2020.
The 28-year-old now has three Welcome convenience stores and he is about to open his fourth in March. His entrepreneurialism and great customer service led to Dilan reaching the national finals of the 2020 Retail Industry Awards.
Mike Fitton, Franchise Business Manager for Southern Co-op, said: "We've worked closely with Dilan for more than two years since he opened his first retail store with us and have witnessed his obvious passion for delivering great customer service for his local communities. He’s friendly and approachable with a passion stemming from his family’s retail business.
"Dilan, who has also gone on to open a second store in Taunton with his father and recently a third in London, listens to what his customers have to say and places large importance on feedback. His enthusiasm is one of the reasons we entered him for these awards and we are very proud that he was Highly Commended."
Dilan’s father, Kalpesh Patel, is the Postmaster for Staplegrove and Priorswood branches in Somerset, plus outreach branches and he is very community-minded. Dilan, who grew up in Somerset, turned down a job as a pharmacist as he felt more motivated by setting up his own business, like his father.
Dilan researched empty shop premises and he drove around until he found the “right location” for a shop, even though the previous convenience store at this site had not survived. He felt the premises 5-6 Moneyhill Parade, Rickmansworth, WD3 7BQ had the right potential and he took on the Welcome Co-op franchise. His gut instinct, right retail and great customer has proved that he could make a real success of this site.
At the age of 15 Mickey Venus started to work part-time at the shop. Dilan then gave him a full apprenticeship. He worked in the Post Office as soon as soon as the branch opened a year ago. Now at the age of 18 he has been made store manager as he has quickly learnt the ropes. Like Dilan, Mickey is very popular with the customers as great customer service is top priority and they care about their customers. Dilan wants to develop talent at his stores regardless of their age, from young to old. He says he has great staff who are motivated.
Postmaster, Dilan Patel, said: “The addition of Moneyhill Parade Post Office was really appreciated by the community and it has been very good for business. It has been a crazy year with the pandemic. People were very pleased that I had restored a Post Office in the area as there used to be one in Tudor Parade. It is getting busier and busier with people doing all their banking, sending parcels, returning on-line shopping and paying bills. Then whilst they are here, they are also buying goods from the store too.”