This article is an extract from the Autumn Edition of MER Magazine published in August 2018. You can read the full article as well as other articles  from MER for free by visiting

Continuing our series of CEO perspectives in MER, Sue Whalley, CEO, Post & Parcels UK with Royal Mail, gives her view on the future of the industry.

The way people communicate is rapidly changing, and our industry has to constantly adapt to a new reality. Letters still account for almost half of Royal Mail’s revenue, but they are no longer the prevailing form of written communication. Businesses and consumers are increasingly sending and receiving texts, WhatsApp messages and emails. This e-substitution helps to explain why Royal Mail predicts that UK addressed letter volumes will fall by four to six per cent per year.

Nevertheless, the digital world is benefitting us as an industry. The fundamental change in the way people shop – online and often in the evening from the comfort of their home – has changed the delivery industry, including Royal Mail. We have gone from being a letters business that delivers parcels, to a parcels business that delivers letters.

More than that, as the Universal Service provider we are the delivery backbone for e-commerce in the UK. We deliver more parcels than all our competitors combined – over a billion every year.

The best delivery company in Europe

At Royal Mail our challenge is to deliver to thirty million addresses, six days a week, to a high quality whilst we transform. We cannot do the same as other industries where they are able to close stations, lines and roads to make improvements. Like many businesses we have to fly the plane and rebuild it in-flight.

We were starved of investment as a state-owned company, so we have had some catching up to do. Since privatisation, we have invested £1.8 billion modernising our IT and delivery office network. This is the largest ongoing investment project of its kind in the UK. We have invested in automation and customer-facing technology. We scanned more than 16,000 items a minute during our peak hour in last year’s Christmas period. That was made possible because we completed the largest roll out of PDAs across Europe. We are strengthening our technology backbone to ensure we can be even more responsive to customer needs, and enable us to gain greater understanding about every part of our pipeline.

Parcels take up more space than letters, so we are making sure our fleet is suitable for the future. We operate a large vehicle fleet in the UK and recognise our responsibility to reduce emissions associated with our fleet. This year, we purchased 100 electric vehicles to be used at Delivery Offices across the UK. While this might seem like a small number, it is the largest fleet of electric vehicles in the UK. We are also the first company to invest in larger electronic trucks.

The case for letters

At Royal Mail, we are still demonstrating the value of letters and championing consumers’ right to receive postal communications. Against a background of e-substitution, the decline we are seeing in letter volumes in the UK is the envy of many postal organisations around the world.

It falls to us all to do everything we can to make the case for the power of letters, paper bills and statements. At Royal Mail we work with a number of key industry partners to support the Keep Me Posted campaign which seeks to protect the rights of consumers to receive paper bills and statements without penalty.

Mail has a future and that is why we are making the case for it. All companies that have a stake in its future should play their part too, to ensure it continues to thrive and customers get the services they need.

This article is an extract from the Autumn Edition of MER Magazine published in August 2018. You can read the full article as well as other articles  from MER for free by visiting

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