A surge in online shopping helped to push up the Post Office’s income over Christmas, as web-based retailers escaped the Covid-19 restrictions that bedevilled the high street.
In the four weeks to 27 December, the Post Office recorded 51.3m customer transactions, just 0.5% below the same period of 2019, with sales up 17% to £66.3m.
Mail and parcel services increased “significantly”, boosted by the soaring growth of Drop & Go, the Post Office’s fast-track service for businesses and online sellers, which boosted sales by 87%.
Cash and banking services declined only slightly, down 10%, despite the restrictions affecting thousands of small businesses that bank at one of the Post Office’s 11,500 branches, the largest retail network in the UK.
The biggest negative impact of Covid restrictions was on travel money transactions, where like-for-like sales dropped by 69%, as holidays were rendered near-impossible for most of the period.
The Post Office’s chief executive, Nick Read, hailed the contribution of postmasters, the people who run individual branches.
The company was forced to apologise last year after a landmark legal case ruled it had wrongly accused dozens of postmasters of criminal activity, resulting in multiple convictions.
“After a very challenging year for much of the retail sector, I am pleased to see 17% growth in network income over the Christmas period thanks to the hard work of postmasters,” said Read.
“Our physical presence has been vital across the UK, with customers enjoying the convenience, expert advice and safe hands that our postmasters offer, in addition to the invaluable support they have provided to local communities during the pandemic, with 99% of the network remaining open.”
Variable income for postmasters rose 20% during the year.
Despite milder-than-usual weather over the four weeks to 27 December, income from bill payment was up after the Post Office won a contract with British Gas to process top-ups.