Direct mail industry bullish about fighting off Covid hell

young person direct mail 2As thousands of businesses brace themselves for the fall-out from the second wave of Covid-19, it appears that the mailing house sector at least is feeling bullish, with most viewing the pandemic as short-term issue and not the death knell of the letters market.

According to a new survey of Strategic Mailing Partnership members, who produce billions of mailpacks a year, even at the height of the first wave, the vast majority (83%) believed they would survive the crisis.

Some 98% of members see the pandemic as a one-off event, with a number reporting they had taken on new clients who had seen the fact that millions of Brits are working from home as an ideal opportunity for direct mail; others had scooped extra work printing Covid messaging.

Even so, only 4% of members had not placed some staff on furlough, and over three-fifths (62%) had been forced to make redundancies, but almost three-quarters (73%) believe they will be able to persuade customers to retain or expand their use of physical mail.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) believe volumes are unlikely to return to pre-Covid predicted levels until 2021 but nearly one fifth (17%) said they were intending to design and produce new types of mailpacks to fuel the recovery.

The business impact survey was carried out as an alternative to the annual SMP Summit, that gives mail makers the opportunity to get together to exchange analysis and ideas. The partnership’s chair, Judith Donovan CBE, said the survey had revealed some priceless insights.

“The pandemic has obviously had a devastating effect on the UK economy as a whole. But one of the emerging trends from our members is that many believe this could be a real opportunity for physical mail.

“It’s always been a trusted way to communicate but with so many people now working from home it’s having an even bigger impact; people are at home to pick it up read it and digest it rather than stepping over it on the doormat as they fly out of the door to get to the office.”

In response to figures from both Royal Mail and the IPA Bellwether Report, which show a major decline in volumes and spend, Donovan said: “Yes, volumes of mail have fallen but the main reason for this is down to customers in sectors such as hospitality and leisure simply not being open for business, with others citing budget cuts and clients going bust as a reason for the decline.

“However, others have reported a positive impact on volumes and have won new business with clients looking to tell their customers they’re open for business or have changed their offering and also from charities appealing for funds.”

Another area which has been affected is investment, with half of all respondents saying they had been planning major upgrades during 2020 prior to the onset of the pandemic. Of these, 43% had cancelled but the rest insisted plans had been delayed rather than scrapped.

Donovan concluded: “Our members are a knowledgeable bunch and operate in all four corners of the UK. Our board members alone employ more than 20,000 people and have a combined turnover of around £2.3bn. These people really do have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in the industry right now and amid all the gloomy national headlines, it’s clear that the current circumstances present opportunities for direct mail.”

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