Post office licensees call for a renewed focus on retail as Australia Post chief executive resigns

Australia Post

Post office owner-operators are calling for a renewed focus on traditional post office operations after Australia Post’s chief executive resigned on Thursday.

Ahmed Fahour announced his resignation just two weeks after his $5.6 million annual salary was revealed by a Senate committee and sunsequently labelled by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as “too high”.

Read more: The ‘myths’ that justify huge pay packets for chief executives

In a press conference, Fahour said his resignation was not due to the uncovering of his unusually high salary, labelling the accusations “completely untrue”. Instead, Fahour said he has “achieved everything I need to achieve” after seven years in the role, reports Fairfax.

Fahour will not formally step down from his position until July, with the organisation’s board to appoint a replacement for Fahour. The government said on Thursday the new chief executive’s salary and bonuses will be decided by an independent remuneration tribunal.

However, as search for a new boss begins, one of the groups representing owner-operators of licensed post offices (LPO) in Australia says it’s hoping the new chief executive will focus on a return to traditional LPO offerings.

“We’re hoping to move into a new age where we can have an executive focused on running the business to be more inclusive to retail networking and driving foot traffic,” LPOGroup chairperson Angela Cramp told SmartCompany.

“Let’s focus on on the logistic businesses we are, and the retail business we have,” she says.

Cramp is critical of Australia Post’s move to push most services online, claiming that while it benefits inner city post offices, LPO operators in remote locations suffer. There are approximately 2,900 LPOs operating around the country.

Services like paying bills and registering parcels should be moved back in-store, Cramp believes.

“We are the biggest retail footprint in Australia. Wherever you are there is an LPO close by, so it’s the most convenient method for many to get what they need,” she says.

“So why are we not driving people into stores? Get people back paying bills in store.

“Services moving online is a disaster for anyone who doesn’t own a computer. We’re still a postal business and we need to focus on that.”

Fahour “dragged” Australia Post into the modern day 

But while Cramp thinks it was time for Fahour to resign, she says the outgoing chief executive achieved some important things.

“He was the person who came in and blew up the business. Australia Post has had entrenched ideas for over 200 years, and he dragged it kicking and screaming into the modern day,” Cramp says.

“He introduced a digital world to Australia Post, and we’re getting there, but there’s a lot of learning to go.”

As that learning period continues, Cramp believes most Australians still expect “letters in their letterbox”, and hopes a new chief executive can bring a focus back to profits for smaller LPOs.

“The online digital world has taken small business, large business, and now mums and dads out of the postal network. You can register and track parcels online, but you can’t do everything, you have to take things to post office to post it,” Cramp says.

“We have lost revenue because we don’t get commission for the whole process anymore. We wait for you to bring the parcel to us at 7% commission, which is nothing compared to what we were getting three years ago.”

The LPOGroup is hoping for more than just a new chief executive, calling for a “reshuffle of everyone’s priorities”.

“We’ve been fighting for four years over the cost of us to serve, so we’re hoping for meaningful negotiations and consultation,” the group says.

Australia Post told SmartCompany the appointment of the new chief executive is a matter for the Australia Post Board but declined to provide further comment.

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