Post Offices and pharmacies have topped this year’s ranking of the services that have the most positive impact on a local area, according to new research from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
The 2023 Community Barometer, released today, looks at how people value the services in their area, what they would like more of, and how they would prioritise investment in their community. The report looks at a total of 16 different local services, including everything from petrol stations and pubs to takeaways and charity shops.
This year’s report shows that the top three services that have the most positive impact locally are Post Offices (1), pharmacies (2) and convenience stores (3). The same three services were also rated highest among local people as the most essential, with pharmacies considered the number one most essential local service, followed by Post Offices and convenience stores.
Speaking on the launch of the report, Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “UK consumers are sending a very clear message that a diverse range of local services are essential to the wellbeing of their communities. Convenience stores are increasingly acting as service hubs, including Post Office counters, prescription collections and banking services within their businesses, which are highly valued by their customers.”
Martin Roberts, Group Chief Retail Officer at Post Office, said: “I’m delighted that Post Offices have been recognised as having the most positive impact on a local area. Postmasters provide their communities with essential services, whether it’s banking, paying a bill, topping up gas and electricity cards or sending letters and gifts to loved ones. Consumers value face-to-face customer service and know that at their local Post Office they will be served by a trusted and knowledgeable Postmaster.
“Many branches are at the heart of the community and provide an opportunity to socialise helping to add to people’s general well-being. I’m grateful to Postmasters and their teams for all they do serving their communities and this report recognises their hard work and commitment.”
More Banks Wanted
In recent years the number of bank branches has been falling significantly on UK high streets, with the prevalence of online banking being given as a reason for many of the closures. This year’s report shows that more than half of people believe that it would be beneficial for their local area to have more banks, topping the list of most wanted services. This is followed by specialist food shops, and non-food shops like hardware stores.
The report has also highlighted the continuing importance of cash to local people, with only 8% of people saying they never withdraw cash. The most common way that people get access to cash is through a free to use ATM in their local convenience store (60%), with around one in three (34%) able to get to a local bank branch to withdraw their money.
Convenience Stores Appealing to Next Generation
The Community Barometer report also looks at the way that different age groups feel about their local convenience stores and the value that they bring to their communities. In this year’s report, 18–24-year-olds were the most keen on having more convenience stores in their local area compared to other age groups, and were the most positive about their local convenience store being a community hub, reducing loneliness, and helping to keep people safe at night.
Mr Lowman continued: “The importance of convenience stores to older customers is well documented, with stores acting as social hubs and a support network for those that are vulnerable or less mobile, but these figures show that on areas like reducing loneliness, local shops are incredibly important to young people as well. It’s encouraging to see the continued relevance of convenience stores to the next generation of consumers.”
Local Investment the Top Priority
This year’s report has also revealed that two thirds of people (67%) would prefer to see investment in their immediate local area, compared to one third (33%) who want investment in their nearest town or city centre.
The top three areas of investment are public spaces, e.g. parks (1), community projects, e.g. youth centres (2) and better community policing (3). Among different age groups, the importance of community policing gets higher as people get older, with investment in that area the top priority for 55-64s and 65+ groups.
Mr Lowman continued: “Local people have a clear desire for safer neighbourhoods and more ways to spend time in their community with family and friends. The shift toward hybrid working patterns have led people to have more appreciation for the businesses that operate near them, and more demand for high quality local services. Local investment should be a key priority for the government as it moves forward with its levelling up agenda.”
The full Community Barometer report is available on the ACS member portal.