Release Date: 07 November 2006
Release ID: 475
A line-up of speakers covering the whole spectrum of the mail industry in the UK addressed delegates at The Mail Show 2006 in London last week. The two-day event featured a host of top-level delegates, a bustling exhibition area, a fascinating new workshop session for mail buyers and a busy programme of networking meetings as well as 30+ speakers from every sector of the mail market. In addition, mailing customers with a total annual spend of around £2 billion were present, and their views on the current state of the postal industry in the UK were a common element to many of the sessions.
Focusing on the newly-liberalised mail sector in the UK, the opening morning saw directors from Royal Mail, Postcomm, DHL Global Mail, TNT Post and UK Mail demonstrate, each from their own points of view, the pros and cons of the first ten months of open competition. The BBC's Declan Curry conducted a debate with three leaders of customer representative bodies, particularly discussing the need for real innovation driven by Royal Mail and its competitors. Other topics debated on the first day included demands for further deregulation, lessons to be learned from Europe and different theories on stimulating direct mail growth. In his wide-ranging speech, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, the Postal Services Minister, stressed the importance of balanced regulation with all stakeholders participating with Postcomm to maximise the opportunities that lay ahead.
Following the glittering UK Mail Awards Gala Dinner in the evening, Day Two began with a strong turnout of delegates for the opening session looking at customer response and first impressions on the current competitive environment. This included feedback from the Customer Forum, a round-table gathering of major mailers from a range of industry sectors held at the Show. One of the key themes to emerge from the Forum and other research presented was that liberalisation is showing financial and other benefits for large mailers, but that customers whose budgets are smaller (and therefore often under greater pressure) are yet to see any real advantages from deregulation. In particular, there was a feeling that the new operators competing for a slice of the Royal Mail pie are targeting their efforts at the big corporate mailers; while understandable in many respects, this is making it hard for the majority of posters to see the benefit of liberalisation so far.
This theme was followed through in the showpiece debate later in the morning, when former Postwatch Chairman Peter Carr chaired a captivating discussion between the delegates and a panel of five Chief Executives and Directors from the major postal operators. Issues such as light-touch regulation, level playing fields and product innovation were also batted to and fro between the platform and the auditorium in a lively 90-minute session. Industry figures including John Hughes from Regional Mail Services and Royal Mail Wholesale's Paul Bates, important mailers Royal Bank of Scotland and Littlewoods amongst others, and user group representatives such as Alan Halfacre from the MUA and the PPA's Ian Locks all contributed to the debate, which was continued by many over the ensuing lunch and into the afternoon.
Twelve months ago, there was a clear sense of anticipation in the air at the 2005 Mail Show. A year on, progress is evident to many in all sectors of the industry, whether they're operators, regulators or customers. However, a lot more is expected, especially by smaller mailers, by the new operators and by the regulators themselves. There was no doubting the consensus that The Mail Show 2006 included the best programme and best line-up of speakers in its seven-year history, as well as an increasing number of mailing customers. It was also clear to all present that further steps forward will have to be taken in the industry in 2007 if next year's Mail Show delegates are to be able to move the debate beyond big-picture regulation towards tangible benefits for all concerned.
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