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As credit unions expand their market footprint, branches remain an important investment for growth.
Credit Union Times reported on this effort by five credit unions across the country. Expanding their existing 75 branch network was Suncoast Schools, Tampa, FL, which is opening three new branches in Orlando. Truliant, Winston Salem, NC is investing in a South Carolina expansion involving five new offices in three years.
The CU Times story also described new branch openings by Blue FCU, Cheyenne, WY; Utah Community in Provo; and Brooklyn Cooperative FCU in New York.
In person matters
If digital transactions and virtual platforms are the future of financial services, why are these and other credit unions continuing to invest in real estate and a physical presence?
Part of the answer is that opening new markets is very difficult to do with a virtual only strategy. Platform solutions bring individual responses to promotions. However “seeing is believing” if credit unions want to have a continuing community presence and impact.
Another factor may be the reality that Stores Aren’t Dead, according to an article in Axios.
According to data from Coresight, “physical store openings exceeded closings on an annual basis in 2022 for the first time since 2016.” Retailers are on a pace to open more stores at an even faster pace in 2023.
Why? “While e-commerce platforms helped retailers manage the pandemic — but both retailers and consumers realized the limitations of doing business entirely online.”
Bargain hunters like to shop in person. The top six retailers opening stores in 2022 were dollar chains and discounters, including Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, Five Below, TJX Cos., and Aldi, in that order.
Those customers would seem an attractive demographic for credit union services as well.
Digital transactions for existing members are an important option for supporting these members efficiently. But a physical presence is what communicates commitment to a community. And being there for an ongoing relationship.