Archive: Robinsons and the Royal Mail – What You Need to Know…

First published on 15th October 2009 on www.robinsonsequestrian.com

As you may have seen on the news, the country is about to face a period of strikes by postal workers. Naturally, you’ll be concerned that all mail order will therefore become totally unreliable and to be honest, who could blame you? If you’re still reading at this point, please allow me to explain what we’ve done to ensure that Robinsons is unaffected by the strikes as much as we possibly can be. I’ve tried to keep this information as short and to-the-point as I can:

Suspension of all Standard Packets sent via Royal Mail

As soon as the Communication Workers’ Union held a ballot which gave them the opportunity to plan strikes, we knew we had to transfer our business to other carriers. From Monday 19th October right through until Christmas (and possibly beyond), we will therefore be sending all our standard packets out via The Home Delivery Network, using their 24 hour delivery service. This decision comes at quite a substantial cost to us, which we will not be passing on to you. We felt that as long as we can keep your confidence, the extra cost will be worth avoiding hundreds or maybe thousands of lost orders. Just to clarify, the 24 hours described above relates to the time it takes to leave our mailing room to arrival with you. It’s not quite the same as our £9.95 Express Delivery service, which for orders placed before 12 noon (Monday to Thursday), promises a 24 hour delivery from the time you order until arrival with you. I hope I’ve been able to explain the distinction well enough.

Where we may still have to depend on Royal Mail

Sadly, it’s a little more complicated than simply transferring all our delivery business elsewhere. There are some occasions where we may have no option but to continue to use Royal Mail. These instances will be quite specific parts of our business like overseas delivery of small parcels, affecting very few customers. Unfortunately, if you’re one of those customers, this comes as no consolation at all. Even then, we will continue to look for alternatives if the Royal Mail service is unworkable. Aside from the goods we send out, I’m sure you’ll also know that we send out catalogues from time to time. In early December, we will produce our Winter Sale 2009 catalogue, as we do every year, mailing it to hundreds of thousands of customers. In recent years, we have moved away from using the Royal Mail to collect these catalogues from us once they are printed. Unfortunately, because this is still standard ‘letter post’, the industry still works on the basis that the Royal Mail always handle the mail over the ‘final mile’ of the delivery. It is financially impossible for us to by-pass them, using couriers, on such volumes and we are just not big enough to use our own network of local agents to deliver catalogues like (for example) Next do. Again, we are looking at our alternatives and we also hope that the dispute – or at least the industrial action – may have been resolved by then. All we can say is that we’ll keep you post… er, make that informed.

Robinsons and the Royal Mail: What We’d Like You to Know…

Okay, this bit is more about how the dispute affects us than about how it affects you but as you’re still reading, I have a couple of things to say that might interest you. Since 2007, Robinsons have been members of The Catalogue Exchange, a not-for-profit organisation which represents the interests of companies who trade via catalogues. By a strange quirk of fate (or perhaps it was deliebrarely done so), the decision to strike was announced on the second day of our industry’s biggest trade fair*. Between us, the members of CatEx (as we all call it) represent hundreds of millions of pounds of revenue to the Royal Mail and our combined voice is being used to pressurise both sides of the dispute. Our very capable President is Nigel Swabey, the Chairman of a number of well-known catalogue companies including, currently, Scott’s & Co and he has done a number of press interviews to put our case. In a recession, every business is expecting to fight harder to even match last year’s performance. Those of us who depend on a reliable postal system face having to do so with a huge extra burden to deal with. For many (like us), the dangers are of wasted opportunities, which is bad enough. For some, it could make the difference between survival and failure. Please don’t take the impression that we (Robinsons) are fighting for survival – As we expect to illustrate quite soon, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Are we concerned that our business could be severely affected by this action? Of course we are. Any other company who depends on mail order (including all the website operators) would be lying if they said anything else. Okay, that’s it. Rant over. Even though this is our blog and in theory we could rant about anything on here, I promise you I’d rather not do that, normally. After all, I would like you to want to come back here occasionally and that’s unlikely to happen if we fill the blog with industry moans when all you really want from us is to know that our range is wide, our prices are reasonable and our service is reliable. I hope you appreciate that these are rather unusual circumstances and it is important to me and to us all here at Robinsons that you do not lose confidence in the service we can provide to you. What use is a mail order service, however good it may be, if it lacks the credibility to inspire your confidence? We never take your confidence for granted and we do all we can to retain it. Unfortunately, we realise that this time, the actions of others may affect that and all we can do is promise you the same level of service you expected from us before. Thanks for reading! Paul.

*If you watched the BBC’s lunchtime 1 o’clock News on October 8th, you will have seen me, just for a second, in shot behind Hugh Pym while he was reporting on the strike story from Earl’s Court. Not that impressive, I know, but true all the same…
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