How NOT to Market Your Collectable Products 101
A few people seem to think I'm trying to be critical of Stanley Gibbons, their catalogues or the stamp trade more generally. That was never intended. I just want to illustrate how Royal Mail have virtually NOTHING in their current marketing plan to continue supporting their customers AFTER THE SALE.
Unlike the Royal Mint, who continue to provide full information about the coins they produced years ago, Royal Mail, it seems, don't give a hoot if you coughed up for a special set of stamps from them once they're off sale. At best, they might send you details of the next set of stamps they expect to flog you.
Do a Google for any GB special stamp set issued a few years ago and see how much you can learn about them from the Royal Mail website. Done that? I bet you found plenty of links that take you to current and future stamps they want you to buy - in amongst the cufflinks, books and mugs of course.
If you did learn anything about a previously issued stamp set in those Google returns it's far more likely to be because of the hard, unpaid marketing work done for Royal Mail by people in the trade, such as Norphil and other collectors and/or dealers who are genuine stamp enthusiasts first and foremost. Believe me, if they weren't running on full fat philatelic flavoured enthusiasm juice, they would be dealing in far more profitable things like sun bathing, bird watching and walking.
So, no, I'm not at all critical of the stamp trade and certainly cannot blame them for the apparent loss of interest in modern British stamp issues.
Imagine, if you will, what British stamp collecting would be like without SG, Stoneham or Scott catalogues? Where or what will you learn about the stamps in an old album then? Royal Mail apparently don't care. And before you think that's a silly suggestion, read the recent financial press about the current health of Stanley Gibbons.
The stamp collector is left to rely on publications which, however good they are, do not contain some of the basic data about modern issues that information age collectors of comparable collectables would take for granted. It's not good enough and there is NO excuse for it.
By the way, did you know that, of the 63,561,840 Penny Blacks that went in to circulation, well under 0.003% of them, or 168,000 to be precise, were from plate 11. Explains why that plate commands a premium price and, would you believe it, I learned all that from a Stanley Gibbons catalogue.
Once upon a time dealers held substantial stocks of new British stamp issues. Businesses like that run some years ago by Godfrey Cleveland were able to set benchmark prices for stamps based upon hard and fast trading data and stock levels. However, this is no longer the case, as few dealers hold much stock of new issues at all. Given the rapid rise in face values and the explosion of stamp formats, it's simply too expensive to buy and then have that capital tied up for who knows how long. Then there's the very real possibility that, without people knowing obvious basic facts and the huge gap in mailing costs between franked mail and stamped mail, a good chunk of your stock may be headed for the 75% face value trade anyway. You can't run a proper business this way.
I recall Tony Buckingham, who sadly passed away just recently, saying a few years ago; "I succeeded despite Royal Mail...". A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then but there still seems to be an arrogance in the way Royal Mail expect collectors to buy their products without letting them have even the most basic facts about them or any kind of post sale follow up or support. What does it take? One employee given the right information, possessing the ability to write well and a Wordpress installation branded by a few graphics.
So isn't it obvious by now why stamp collecting in the UK is half way round the U bend? If Royal Mail cannot, or will not, tell me how many millions of something exist once they've gone off sale then this isn't a collectable product I should spend serious money on is it? Yet, despite this simple bit of common sense and the apparent decline in demand being reported, Royal Mail appear to have channelled huge effort in to expanding their product range and increase the cost of their products while doing nothing to stop the rot.
Royal Mail cannot blame the customers for a decline in new issue sales. If collectors are losing interest and cancelling standing orders then people with real clout in Royal Mail must look a lot closer to home for an explanation and solutions. The stamps are still very popular and widely admired but, while there seems to be more and more reasons not to collect them - or dare I say invest in them - being voiced month after month in the philatelic media, nobody seems to think there's a nettle that needs grasping.
I wonder if Moya Greene would invest some of her generous CEO salary in souvenir stickers issued in unknown numbers that are only limited by the amount and speed of printing presses someone decides to employ? I doubt it. I suspect she's a fair bit brighter than that.
With that thought I shall end my vent at Royal Mail..... until the next time my frustration boils over.
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