This ad will be closed automatically in X seconds.

GCA keeps up pressure over RM sale

Call for mps to sign 6-point pledge as Czech Sphinx £3.5bn deal looks set to go ahead

 

There’s a crucial few days ahead for the greeting card industry as cardies continue the battle to get Royal Mail and the government to save the letter delivery service.

Following a great weekend of press coverage with the GCA, greeting cards, and quotes in all the national papers, association ceo Amanda Fergusson has furthered the media push, speaking with more journalists this week – the Daily Mail has an online article today 22 May – as well as meeting small business minister Kevin Hollinrake mp.

Above & top: Just some of the newspaper coverage from recent days
Above & top: Just some of the newspaper coverage from recent days

Having fed back a snapshot of the Independent Retailers’ Confederation (IRC) survey results, Amanda said: “Thank you to those of you who responded, it was great to see card indie retailers represented in the results and gave us another opportunity to wave the flag for our industry and have our voices heard by government, especially Kevin, who is also postal lead for the government.”

The national, reliable and affordable Royal Mail service that the card industry depends on is under threat from RM’s proposals to chop the second-class service to three days a week by changing the universal service obligation (uso), which appears to be supported by industry regulator Ofcom in its The Future Of The Postal Service review.

There’s also the runaway price for a first-class stamp with the fourth above-inflation stamp rise in two years last month, while the Czech Sphinx’s bid to take over the 508-year-old British institution is expected to be finalised by the end of May, adding even more uncertainty to the industry, although the government’s business secretary Kemi Badenoch has she will not allow a foreign buyout without guarantees in place.

The GCA is asking mps and other stakeholders to sign a six-point pledge making a #Cardmitment to restore services, protect Saturday deliveries and hold back price rises to protect small businesses, High Streets, and consumers.

Above: The GCA’s Amanda Fergusson took part in an online meeting with minister Kevin Hollinrake on Monday
Above: The GCA’s Amanda Fergusson took part in an online meeting with minister Kevin Hollinrake on Monday

The pledges are:

  • Fix it first, then reform– insist Royal Mail meets existing performance targets before any uso changes.
  • Keep Saturdays affordable– protect the Saturday delivery service at an affordable price and make that price legally binding.
  • Fully price protect all deliveries– protect consumers from above-inflation price rises on second-class stamps, extend that protection to the first-class service, and make any future price rises conditional on agreed service targets being met.
  • Keep Royal Mail national– protect an affordable single-price delivery service to all UK households.
  • Stop delivery discrimination– prevent the prioritisation of parcel deliveries over letters and cards.
  • Support High Streets– recognise the role a thriving postal service, including post offices, has in protecting High Streets and communities up and down the country

A draft letter which people can download and full details of the pledges and how to send the letter to MPs are on this GCA blog.

Royal Mail was highlighted as an issue by many indies in their IRC survey responses and was also a separate agenda item in yesterday’s online meeting where Amanda said: “I highlighted again GCA members’ concerns that a deal with new owners will do nothing to avoid further reductions in the quality of delivery services.

“And that we strongly believe that whoever owns Royal Mail, must be held accountable on pricing and quality of service standards, through contractual obligations that are enforceable – and delivered. “

Amanda said the minister reiterated that neither the government nor prime minister Rishi Sunak want to see a reduction in service.

“The minister also mentioned that he, like us, has been assured that improvements in postal services are now being seen by consumers – Ofcom will be reporting on service levels soon.”

Above: There’s a draft letter to mps urging them to make a #Cardmitment
Above: There’s a downloadable draft letter to mps urging them to make a #Cardmitment

Of the wider issues covered by the IRC survey, 37% of overall respondents said Q1 2024 was somewhat or much better than Q1 2023, 26% said it was the same while 13% felt it was much worse, while for GCA members none felt it was worse, 42% had a better time, and 41% said it was the same.

Parking costs came up a number of times and the minister and civil servants from the Department For Business And Trade (DBT) team on the call confirmed councils are “only supposed to charge enough to cover cost of maintenance not make a profit”, so retailers were encouraged to take up unreasonable charges with local councils.

It was also confirmed that The Retail Sector Council is looking at High Streets and would welcome thoughts to feed into its thinking.

Following the news on Wednesday, 15 May, of the increased £3.5billion bid from billionaire Daniel Křetínský, known as the Czech Sphinx, to buy Royal Mail’s parent company International Distribution Services through his EP Group, the IDS board has let it be known it is “minded” to accept the deal.

Ofcom’s data indicates greeting cards are critical to how Royal Mail is perceived by end consumers with greeting cards now the most frequent things UK consumers post and 42 per cent of customers now say sending them is the only time they use the postal service.

Amanda added: “Our members, and the customers they serve, expect a postal service that’s national, reliable, and affordable. They’re already nervous that planned regulatory reform will ignore these basic needs – and now they fear a deal with new owners that will do nothing to avoid further reductions in the quality of delivery services.

“Whoever owns Royal Mail, must be held accountable on pricing and quality of service standards, through contractual obligations that are enforceable – and delivered.”

GCA members are backing the fight, contributing to a press release that has been issued to the media by Arena PR.

Retailer Michael Apter, md of Paper Tiger’s three shops in Edinburgh, saying: “Royal Mail should be maintaining their universal service obligations. A lot of the proposals being suggested that could come into place could be very damaging for small businesses. We need to be able to rely on a service that runs six days a week at a price that is affordable to its customers.”

Above: Paper Salad’s Claire and Karen, Raspberry Blossom’s Mark and Rebecca Green, and David Falkner from Cardology
Above: Paper Salad’s Claire and Karen, Raspberry Blossom’s Mark and Rebecca Green, and David Falkner from Cardology

Raspberry Blossom publisher Rebecca Green added: “People are concerned. The postal service, in many areas of the country, is just not great at the moment, and it’s a worry that it could get worse. Being able to rely on regular, reliable and affordable postal services is absolutely vital for local businesses across the UK, not just in the greeting card industry but in many other sectors too. We all need a good quality Royal Mail. It is a public service that is important for so many people.”

Sarah Laker, who runs two Stationery Supplies shops in Marple and Wilmslow, said: “It would be a huge blow to so many people if we were to see any reduction in what has been such a reliable UK postal service for generations. It seems like such a backward step, which makes no sense at all.”

With their Paper Salad publishing business depending on a “reliable, affordable and accessible” postal service, founders Karen Wilson and Claire Williams said: “We really rely on the Royal Mail and some of the changes being proposed pose a massive threat to our whole industry. We are all very mindful of the impact any reductions to the current levels of service, or increases in price, could have. Hopefully the concerns of local businesses across the UK will be listened to and some sensible solutions can be reached.”

Above: Heidi and Dom Early run Earlybird Designs, Sarah Laker is at Stationery Supplies and Paper Tiger’s Michael Apter
Above: Heidi and Dom Early run Earlybird Designs, Sarah Laker is at Stationery Supplies and Paper Tiger’s Michael Apter

At retailer and publisher Earlybird Designs, director Heidi Early had a hard-hitting response: “It was good to be able to respond to the recent Ofcom consultation into Royal Mail services – but it was shambolic. It does not address the key problem. How can you consult on changing a national service that you are failing to properly regulate as it stands? It is a service that is failing the public and destabilising small businesses like mine every single day.”

And Cardology co-owner David Falkner backed this up: “It’s utterly bizarre the way Ofcom has approached the current review. They are obsessed with making their main objective to be the improvement of the Royal Mail’s bottom line. Everything else seems secondary. It’s like running the rail service and not caring that people travelling are missing their meetings or getting to their journeys on time, as long as the rail companies are making the money they need. Their priorities are all wrong. It needs a more measured approach.”

To ensure your mp has the chance to make the #Cardmitment pledges to save and improve the postal service, the draft letter can be downloaded here.

MORE NEWS
CF agm Feature Image
 
But agm result raises shareholders’ concerns over chairman Paul Moody...
staff changes Feature Image
 
Staff changes at Cardfactory, Woodmansterne, Ohh Deer and Rainbow Designs...
FD roundup 2 Feature Image
 
Positivity surrounds retailers’ reactions to Father’s Day sales...
Cardgains north Feature Image
 
£35,000 target for next week’s It’s Not Grim Up North challenge in aid of Mind...
New Designers Feature image
 
Long-lasting New Designers sponsorship keeps graduate innovation flowing...
Small biz 100 apply Feature Image
 
#SmallBiz100 organisers looking for most impressive independent companies...
Get the latest news sent to your inbox
Subscribe to our daily newsletter

The list doesn't exist! Make sure you have imported the list on the 'Manage List Forms' page.