The Post Office has agreed to hand over around 75 post office outlets to WH Smith under a franchise agreement. The Times

Of the 14,300 post office outlets in the UK, most are sub-post offices. There are 458 Crown offices, which are managed directly by Post Office Ltd, and 75 of these will be transferred to WH Smith by the end of next year. The Post Office has been trialling a transfer of six outlets to WH Smith since autumn last year.

Under last year’s arrangement, post offices were closed and staff offered voluntary redundancy or other jobs within the Post Office. Some were able to apply for jobs within WH Smith, which took up a franchise to offer the full range of post office services, including car tax, foreign exchange, passport applications and cheque-cashing facilities. The latest deal is expected to be similar.

The Crown network is loses £70m a year and the Post Office has been closing outlets. WH Smith sees the venture as a way to attract new customers and of using excess space in its stores. It has 545 high street stores and 260 outlets at railway stations and airports.

WH Smith is expected to report a 4% rise in underlying profits to £57m when it reports interim results today. Chief executive Kate Swann has been trialling ways to use store space more effectively, such as setting up coffee shops.