Huge increases in the cost of stamps - up 14p (30%) to 60p for first class, and 14p (39%) to 50p for second class - have prompted a surge in sales of stamps.
As Graph 1 shows, the latest price hikes represent a 122% increase in the cost of 1st class stamps over the past decade, and a staggering 163% increase in the cost of 2nd class stamps.
The price rises have been described by shadow postal affairs minister Ian Murray as “shameless profiteering at the public’s expense” which will have a “significant impact on small businesses and those on low incomes”.
There have been accusations of Royal Mail “rationing” to maximise profits once the rise kicks in on April 30th, with today’s Telegraph reporting:
Retailers said they had seen a five-fold rise in sales as people stocked up on stamps at the cheaper price. Ocado, the online supermarket, ran out of stamps entirely earlier this month while Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons all confirmed that demand had risen sharply.
Superdrug said it was running low on supplies and had been told by Royal Mail it would not get any more stamps until April 30. The company has called on Royal Mail to lift its restrictions so it can “help customers save money”.
Post offices are also running low on supplies. The office in Shere, a village of about 1,000 people near Guildford, Surrey, reported that many customers and small businesses were “panic buying” before the price rise.
Most were stockpiling to ensure they had enough stamps at the current price, said Michael Deacon, the assistant postmaster. It had run out of first-class stamps while the level of second-class stamps was low.
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“With unprecedented price rises on the way, it is understandable that consumers who rely on the postal service will be buying stamps before the increase. We would expect Royal Mail to take steps to meet increased demand in the run up to the price change.”
“This is not great news for consumers.
“This is a very significant increase in the price of an essential service and those consumers who continue to use it will look much harder at the value for money and quality of service that they get.”