Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Royal Mail price increases & thinking outside the box on packaging

As we probably all know by now, in just a few days Royal Mail's pricing for personal customers is changing. Pretty much everything you send now will be more expensive from April 30th. Not only are the price of 1st and 2nd class stamps increasing, but there are some changes to some pricing structures which are important to note. I'll be amending my previous two posts on posting internationally, but here are some of the important points for both domestic and international post and what (if anything) you need to do about them, with a particular focus on thinking creatively about packaging in order to reduce costs. All the new prices can be found here.


There is now only one weight band for small packets under 750g. This means if you're sending a bulky but light item you will be paying A LOT more; previously an item weighing up to 100g cost £1.50 to post first class, now it is £2.70. 
Definitely deflate before posting...
This is quite a big deal. If your items are only just over the 1" limit for Large Letters, you could save £1.80 if you can package them to fit through that slot (that is for 0-100g items first class; for 101-250g the difference is £1.50; 251-500g £1.10, 501-750g 40p; for second class the difference goes from £1.51-30p). Now's the time to put your creative thinking hat on and put your packaging on a diet! Here are a few ideas to get you started...

  • I have received squishy woollen goods - mittens and gloves - vacuum packed to make them thinner. Of course this won't work with light fabrics that could crease, but for bouncy things like wool, it works well (I suggest a test run though to check results are acceptable). For a cheaper alternative, buy gripseal / ziploc bags and squeeze as much air out as possible before sealing. Again, be sure to do a test though to check how much air seeps back in over a few days.
  • Can you rearrange soft products to be flatter? Remember Large Letters can have a footprint of 25x35cm. Elaine over at Ellie's Treasures on Folksy mentioned that she is thinking of sending her fabric wallets packaged open instead of closed, to get under that crucial limit. 
  • If you use jiffy bags, think about whether you really need them. Would a plastic mailing bag do, perhaps with a wrap of tissue paper around the item? A jiffy bag adds at least half a cm or so to width, and if your items are not likely to be damaged by the post process (eg non-delicate fabric items, leather, etc), perhaps they just need something to keep the dirt and weather out. I use plastic mailing bags for my collars as they have their own individual packaging, and the collars themselves are very sturdy - I just can't imagine them getting damaged. Plus, mailing bags are cheaper and lighter than jiffy bags.
  • Another option with squishy items is to use "Pricing in Proportion" boxes from a supplier like Defendapack to make sure your items stay within the Large Letter limits throughout their journey. Even their most expensive boxes in the smallest quantity are about £1 each - less than the amount you'll save on postage for items up to 500g (but be sure to factor in the weight of the boxes)! You could pretty up these with stickers or stamps.
  • If you sell items like jewellery, make sure that any decorative boxes fit within the limits; source new packaging if you need to. Yes people love pretty boxes, but they probably like nearly £2 in their pocket more, especially if the item is not that expensive to start with.
  • If someone's ordered two light items that individually can go as LL, but not together - it may be cheaper to send them in two LLs than one Packet! This should be true as long as the individual items are no more than 250g each. Just be sure to tell the customer what you are doing, in case they arrive at different times!
  • Finally, remember, Royal Mail says that items must be able to drop through the Large Letter slot without needing to be pushed. You can buy acrylic rulers to check every package goes through - a great investment (I just bought one on ebay for about £5, search for "PIP ruler". Edited to add - the ruler I ordered has arrived, it is brilliant, really good quality and only £2.39+£1.40 p&p! It is  this one, it comes in a few colours and has all the relevant info etched into the acrylic, not printed. They also have a large one too for easier measuring of the whole package size not just the depth. Wouldn't normally pimp out ebay sellers on here but I was really impressed.). 
If you can't reduce the size of your packages, then look on the bright size. The increased "flat rate" for packages of up to 750g mean people can (probably) order multiple items from you with no increase in postage rate. Make sure you advertise this in your product descriptions.

You may want to think about sending items 2nd Class by default. Many people say that 2nd Class gets to its destination "pretty much" in the same time frame as 1st (supposedly because 1st rarely gets there next day). I am not sure I subscribe to that point of view but I do seem to be lucky with my posting - most of my 1st class UK deliveries arrive next day - then again, they are all in the post box at Waterloo Station by 9am!

The level of compensation for posted items is now fixed at £46. Previously it was linked to the cost of a first class stamp, but this is no longer the case.
Just remember to obtain additional insurance or pay for special delivery if your item is worth over £46.


Change of structure: Letters, Small Packets and Printed Papers all now cost the SAME at each weight band, for items over 100g; Letters now cheaper than Small Packets up to 100g.
You don't need to worry about this change in structure over 100g, it should just make things a little easier; although obviously note the increased prices. For items under 100g, it is now cheaper to send items by Letter rate (previously, this weight at which Letter was cheaper was up to 40g). I have seen NOTHING that implies there are any changes to what is actually defined as a "Letter" or a "Small packet", and this includes an email to Royal Mail (they weren't that helpful, but directed me to the page for maximum size limits, by which I assumed that no, there are no extra dimensional limits for "Letter" rate). I am sticking to my previous belief that anything can go as Letter rate, so now anything.

The "Rest of World" zone is now split into 2. Zone B is Australia, New Zealand, and other Australasian and Pacific islands; Zone A is everything else.
To be honest, while you need to be aware of this new rule (actually, I believe it's a re-emergence of an old rule), I wouldn't bother having different prices for countries in each zone unless you are sending items near the 2kg limit. There is no difference in prices for Letters and Small Packets; for Packages the difference varies between 4p (for 101-150g) and £1.18 (for 1.9kg-2.0kg).


  1. Excellent and informative post. Not great news really, but you've helped clarify things and I'm sure this'll help a lot of people, including me!, out :-)

  2. This is so helpful, thank you. I didn't realise how important it was to keep the size of the item down so it could go as a large letter, I was more concerned about weight. I must measure everything! And the tip about sending it as 2 parcels is just genius :-)