It has been a challenging year for Guernsey Post. While the annual report covers only until the end of March – the very start of lockdown – the report noted the work that had taken place to keep the postal service running.
Guernsey Post was allowed to stay open as an essential business, but had to change how it operated
‘As a result of the pandemic, the company, for operational reasons, took the decision to take out short-term leases on four properties prior to year-end, to allow the postal operation to be split geographically across the island to allow postal workers to operate safely in line with public health guidelines,’ the report stated.
Chief executive Boley Smillie said the postal service had been adapting towards seeing more parcels and fewer letters, but Covid has dramatically sped up the process.
‘We normally expect between 5% and 10% growth in parcels every year, but this year the numbers have been in excess of 20%,’ he said.
‘In October, there were 50% more parcels than the year before. It’s accelerating the known trend by three or four years – volumes are where we expected them to be in 2024.’
Fortunately, the postal service had already moved from bikes to vans a few years ago in anticipation of more parcels being delivered.
After lockdown, Guernsey Post decided to keep one of the extra sites – at the former Co-op in Lowlands Road Industrial Estate, which is used for parcels going to the northern parishes.
‘Both sites are very busy at the moment,’ Mr Smillie said.
‘We have about 30 people down there [at Lowlands]. There are lots of benefits to having two sites. We would be tight for space otherwise.’
Parcels often spend very little time with the postal service, which is keen to take them in, sort them and deliver them. However, when there are problems, like a boat going technical or being cancelled due to weather, the staff can have to deal with two or several days’ parcels at once, making the extra space vital.
In other parts of the business Batif, the company’s foreign currency bureau, was closed during the pandemic due to low demand and hours are still reduced as few people travel off-island. Mr Smillie said the service would remain in place at post offices, as well as the Visitor Information Centre, adding that staff had done a great job over the last year.
In the year to March, Guernsey Post recorded a profit of £1.4m, paying an ordinary dividend of £444,000 to the States and a special dividend of £1m.
Overall expenses for the company have risen from £29.3m. to £30.3m. Staff numbers have remained largely the same, rising by one to 234. But staffing costs have risen by about £250,000 to £11.3m. Mr Smillie said this was in line with a pre-agreed 2% pay increase.