PostNL: The social function of the local shop in the year 2011

Demand for local shops high despite rise in online shopping

Despite the increasing popularity of Internet shopping, 98% of Dutch people still find it important that there are shops close to where they live. Almost everyone visits a local shop at least once a week. A quarter of those questioned even visit on a daily basis. The fact that the shop is close by was given as the main reason for the number of visits (56%). In the run-up to the opening of the 2600th post office, PostNL has carried out research into the social function of local shops. The research carried out by the postal operator, which has the largest retail network in the Netherlands, has shown that people are still receiving personal service quite literally around the corner from where they live. For almost a quarter of the respondents social contact was the main reason for continuing to visit the shop around the corner.

Where daily grocery shopping in particular is concerned, the Dutch still prefer using supermarkets or specialist shops. The atmosphere (22%), as well as being able to view the range of goods (62%) and being able to touch them (55%) were determining factors.

The research into the social and community relevance of local shops was carried out by ISIZ and Stadspeil using a representative sample survey of 1298 respondents with an equal male/female ratio.

Men talk about the news, women talk about the weather

The range of goods (43%), the news (26%) and the weather (25%) are the topics most often discussed with local shopkeepers. So the conversations are generally just about this and that. Men more often discuss the news, while women more often talk about the weather. Those living in the south of the country chat with shopkeepers more often.

What irritates men most is having to wait a long time

There is something in particular that annoys 50% of the Dutch when it comes to local shops. The majority of the population, for example, think that the shops most local to them should have longer opening hours. The complaint most often aired is long waiting times. This is something which annoys men, along with those living in the three largest cities and in the east of the country, the most. PostNL is responding to this complaint by making more postal sales outlets available so that waiting times are reduced. Opening times are also being extended through the positioning of more post offices within supermarkets. In general, however, the Dutch are positive about local shops. Almost half (49%) have no complaints about them at all.

Demand greatest in the country’s western conurbation

The inhabitants of the three largest cities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague) visit nearby shops most often (36% of them on a daily basis) and value them the most highly. Those living in the three southernmost provinces (Zeeland, Brabant and Limburg) visit local shops the least often (17% on a daily basis).

“This research supports the findings of the “buurtwinkelproject” (local shop project) carried out by the University of Amsterdam. Local shops play an important social role; they are where contact with others can be reinforced, simply while doing grocery shopping. Furthermore, I am not surprised that the demand for local shops is greatest in the three largest cities in the Netherlands in particular. Cities continue to be very anonymous places, making a community atmosphere in local neighbourhoods extra important,” comments sociologist Dr. Carolien Bouw of the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Sociology.

Additional facts and information relating to shopping behaviour and the post office:

  • While on the way to a local shop, almost a quarter of Dutch people (22%) often bump into someone they know.
  • Most Dutch people (72%) find it useful to be able to do their grocery shopping and get several other things done in one shop. Three quarters of Dutch people think it is important that their nearest post office is located within a radius of three kilometres.
  • Most Dutch people (63%) think that value is added if a post office is located within a supermarket.
  • Sixty percent are happy with the atmosphere in the post office.
  • Online purchases are often collected from the post office. More then half of Dutch people (58%) visit the post office in order to collect parcels.

The post office increasingly close by

PostNL carried out research into the community and social function of local shops in the run-up to the opening of the 2600th post office. Figures from the postal operator’s earlier research showed that the majority of Dutch people prefer shopping online to roaming the main shopping streets. However, when it comes to daily grocery shopping, there is still a preference for visiting the supermarket or specialist shop. In its endeavours to offer its customers the very best service, PostNL started opening “shop-in-shop” post offices eight years ago. This makes it possible for customers to take care of their postal needs while doing their shopping. This makes queues a lot shorter, for example. At 2pm on Thursday, 3 November, the 2600th branch will be opened in a supermarket at Voorstraat 61-A in Utrecht. This will again underline how the postal operator, which has the largest retail network in the Netherlands, is moving closer to consumers and also becoming more easily accessible. Via the interactive website consumers can find out just how close their nearest post office is.

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About PostNL
Annually PostNL processes 8.8 billion addressed postal items (including 100 million parcels) and delivers to more than 88 million addresses in the Benelux, Germany, the UK and Italy. PostNL’s main business is mail, parcels and e-commerce. The company also provides services in the area of data and document management, direct marketing and fulfilment. PostNL employs some 77,000 people. In 2010 the company generated a turnover of nearly 4.3 billion euros. More information about PostNL can be found on its website

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