Later this month, Isle of Man Post Office (IOMPO) will seek Tynwald approval to modernise the way postal services are provided in the community, adapting to the changing demands of its customers and commercial partners (including Government) in the digital age.
The report will be debated as IOMPO's annual accounts are laid before October's sitting of Tynwald, which show it's been another challenging year for the business. The report comes following the commitment made in the December 2018 sitting of Tynwald that following the public consultation, IOMPO would undertake further work on the format of the delivery of retail services and come back to Tynwald with its results and recommendations no later than October 2019.
Julie Edge MHK, Chairman of IOMPO, said: "We will be presenting our retail network modernisation strategy to Tynwald, based on a thorough analysis of the challenges and opportunities through consultation with all key stakeholders, while setting out the Board's recommended way forward."
She continued: "We recognise that the retail network is a unique social asset, and a key contributor to our heritage and our reputation as a trusted brand. However, society's needs are changing and all evidence supports that it is no longer financially sustainable or appropriate for IOMPO to maintain it in its current form. For some time, the retail network has operated at a loss and has been subsidised by other areas of the business, but the status quo is no longer acceptable. The results of our performance in the last financial year will be laid before Tynwald at the same sitting and highlight the spiralling costs of the retail network, further evidencing the need for change."
The internet revolution that started in the 1990's has changed retail services globally, as customers increasingly choose to transact their services digitally, at a time and place that suits them, rather than at a designated counter. In the last 10 years, transactions at post offices across the Isle of Man have fallen by 39% with the emergence of the digital alternatives. The majority of the current network transaction income relates to Government and commercial clients, which are anticipated to materially reduce or cease within the next three years, as these organisations pursue their digital strategies, gradually returning the focus of IOMPO to the delivery of postal services within the community. While not new or unforeseen, this significant change is having a profound impact on not only the financial viability of independently operated post offices around the Island, but IOMPO's overall ability to operate profitably and financially responsibly.
In developing its recommended retail network modernisation strategy for Tynwald, IOMPO consulted all key stakeholders including the general public; a public consultation was completed, the results of which were then explored by public focus groups, to ensure a balanced range of opinions. Key learnings of which included a general acceptance that change was necessary, with no desire to pay more for a service they were using less of, and recognition that if something could be made easier online, they would choose that option.
Made up of 22 sub post offices which are in the main dedicated counters within retail outlets, independently operated by individuals or businesses under a commercial service contract, the retail network must modernise to remain relevant and competitive in this digital age. In line with trends and feedback, IOMPO is exploring innovative ways to tailor postal services, responding to the demand for greater convenience, including the provision of 'pop up' offices, enhanced kiosks, self-administered postage and parcel drop off/pick up points.
Ms Edge said: "The retail strategy is part of IOMPO's five-year strategic business case identifying the need for change and efficiency in all aspects of our business, with the aim of returning IOMPO back into profit. IOMPO wants to avoid becoming a part of Isle of Man Government which requires a subvention and a further strain on the public purse."
She concluded: "I sincerely hope Tynwald will recognise IOMPO's financial situation, the cost of the retail network and its unaffordability. The Board takes its financial, commercial and social responsibilities very seriously. It is in this vein we are committed to ensuring the future sustainability of the Post Office, which enables it to provide access to postal services which are value for money, and in line with customer demand while supporting our local communities."