Pre-empting the recurring “nightmare” of the last two years, Miles Robinson, partner of the House of Cards specialist card group pushed for reassurance from Royal Mail that it will not run out of Christmas stamp books for independent retailers so early this year – and that independent retail customers will be looked after.
“Royal Mail ran out of Christmas 2nd class stamp books the day after they went on sale (2nd November) last year. This was an utterly ridiculous situation, especially as the previous year we, in common with other independent retailers had Christmas stamp supply problems then too.”
Miles’ ire was further fuelled when he visited Costco in early November last year “and they had a whole pallet of Christmas stamps selling at prices lower than I could buy them at…go figure!”
House of Cards’ solution for 2016 was to resort to buying them in sheet form “and cutting them up into 6s and 12s for customers, which was not quite the same”.
This year, in an effort to avoid a re-occurrence, Miles telephoned Royal Mail recently. “I told them that I know exactly what our requirement will be (we spend £30K on Christmas stamps alone) and so could we forward order. This was met with a big fat “NO” which was disappointing to say the least!”
Recognising that this was an issue that would affect many indies in the industry, Miles contacted GCA, in his capacity as a retail member of the association (in fact House of Cards was the GCA’s first ever retailer member) to ask what could be done.
Without delay, Sharon Little, ceo of the GCA contacted Louise Anderson, stamp channel manager of Royal Mail asking for clarity.
“Louise was quick to reassure that the situation would not be repeated this year,” Sharon told PG Buzz, saying that the scarcity last year was due to an unexpected high demand for the stamp books last year, which it put down to the popularity of the designs. “In response to this Royal Mail has hugely increased its print runs for 2017 and have no problem sourcing plenty of stamps all the way up to Christmas. I hope retailers will feel reassured by this,” added Sharon.
A happy Miles said: “Well that makes our GCA membership worthwhile! Good to receive the reassurance this year that there will be no problems…we will wait and see!”
This year’s Christmas stamps will go on sale at the beginning of November (via the Royal Mail website, or its retail line 08457 640640).
Four the fourth time in Royal Mail’s 500 year history, the Christmas stamps for 2017 have been designed by children, with this connection with schools surely being a good thing for the affiliated greeting card industry.
Royal Mail ran a competition for primary school pupils to design the stamps, which were judged by HRH Prince Charles (with approval from Her Majesty The Queen), with the winners announced in the July.
The competition theme was ‘What does the Christmas season mean to you?’ with the children designing an image that best describes what the festive period means to them.
The two winners – Ted Lewis-Clark, aged 10, a pupil at Oakfield Academy in Frome, Somerset, and nine-year old Arwen Wilson, who goes to St Chad’s Catholic Primary School in Dudley, West Midlands – are now having seeing designs being made into one of the 1st or 2nd Class Christmas stamps for 2017.
Prizes will also awarded to all shortlisted pupils and their schools in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, in each of the nine regions across England. In total there were 120 prizes across the 4 – 7 and 8 – 11 years age categories.
Overall winners received £1,000 in vouchers for their family, and £1,000 will be awarded to their school. Area winners and schools will each receive £500, and £100 will be awarded to both area runners up and their schools.