Royal Mail has raised more than a few eyebrows in the direct marketing industry by warning that GDPR could lead to a shape decline in mailings – due to business uncertainty – despite widescale predictions that the new regulation will actually boost the direct mail market.
The group said it now expects the fall in letter volumes to be at the higher end of its 4% to 6% range, and could be more than 6% at some stages over the year ahead.
The postal giant said it had been “working closely” with the industry and its customers ahead of the introduction of GDPR, which finally comes into force next Friday.
“We have also outlined how mail can help our customers thrive in a GDPR world,” Royal Mail added. Last week, the company came under fire from sections of the media for promoting its unnaddressed letters division.
Royal Mail’s comments have surprised many in the DM industry, especially as the Information Commissioner’s Office confirmed earlier this year that companies will be able to use legitimate interests – and not have to gain explicit consent – under GDPR to contact consumers by post.
One industry source said: “Maybe [chief executive] Moya Greene is just being over-cautious – or she knows something we don’t. It seems unnecessarily jittery considering that all the evidence points to a direct mail revival under GDPR, not a decline.”
The move comes as the company reported a 37% fall in bottom-line pre-tax profits to £212m for the year to March 25 due to a pension charge. But on an underlying basis, pre-tax profits rose 1% to £565m, while adjusted operating profits rose 1% to £694m.
Revenues were 2% higher at £10.2bn and it saw its best growth in parcel volumes in its core UK parcels, international and letters (UKPIL) arm for four years.
Greene, who steps down next month, said that exceeding £10bn in revenues was a “significant milestone”. She added: “It has been another successful year, despite the challenging environment.”
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