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Royal Mail Rethink GB Stamp Issue Programme
The Dinosaurs isssue planned for October 2012 is being postponed until next year and the Space Science issue is now rescheduled for October 16th. In addition, a commitment is made to "only" twelve special stamp issues in 2013.
In my view the events of 2012 have combined to create the perfect storm to expose the counter-productive effects of too many stamp issues and the ever increasing price being demanded from collectors.
This year, despite a reasonably full programme of special stamp issues, there are a further five pictorial/commemorative Post & Go issues (and probably a sixth at Autumn Stampex), commemorative stamps for every TeamGB Gold Medal winner at this year's Olympic Games will be issued and there will be several commemorative and definitive stamps to mark The Queen's Diamond Jubilee. By any reasonable benchmark the long planned amount of new issues for this year was overkill and then, largely buried by the hype surrounding a "pasty tax" and a "phantom petrol strike", the huge hike in stamp prices was announced...
Having listened to informed criticism of new issue policy inside the philatelic trade for many years - most of which seemed to fall on deaf Royal Mail ears - I can only imagine that there are worrying sales statistics and high levels of cancelled Direct Debits getting attention now.
While Royal Mail is promising to limit special stamp issues to twelve in 2013, this wont limit new Post & Go issues, new definitives, booklets, some additional miniature sheets et al. So it seems to me that Royal Mail is hoping to get through the perfect storm of new issues and price hikes that 2012 has become and will try to return to business as usual in 2013. I understand this desire but fear this plan and their review will prove myopic.
I understand the price hikes were a response to losses due to the cost of providing a universal postal service across the UK but the cost of delivering to remote locations and falling volumes of mail do not impact on the profit potential of philatelic sales where stamps are sold and the delivery service is often unused. What will be the reaction of collectors and the trade to these price hikes? Can many dealers afford to tie up significantly more cash in new issue stock? With the squeeze on family budgets from the austerity measures only just starting to bite wont hobby purchases be the easiest sacrifice to make?
While it is unlikely consumers can avoid sending significant quantities of mail I believe collectors can and will adapt to more costly circumstances. If they increasingly feel as if they are being "taken advantage of" by Royal Mail they will either give up on GB stamps, switch to another country's issues or consider cheaper ways of collecting. Personally I think the writing is already on the wall for some of the stamp formats Royal Mail currently offer but I now fear the largely privatised Royal Mail of the future will find it easy to use falling demand in order to claim regular special stamp issues are unviable.
In my view it is in Royal Mail's own interest to try and keep collectors of GB stamps interested and look to combat the predictable effect of inflation busting price rises on philatelic sales. While selected new issues will now include a second class stamp in place of a higher value this could become the norm and, if we want to maintain the number of special stamp issues, do we really need them to include quite so many individual stamps and have accompanying miniature sheets so often?
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