Faced with competition from supermarkets and falling newspaper sales, British newsagents are delivering the post to replenish their income.
Brian Webb, who operates a newspaper delivery service in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, said his “Webb’s Postal Service” was delivering 1,000 letters a day for a cut-price 30p – less than half the price of first-class mail.
“I’m never going to hurt the Post Office but it has gone so well that it has blown us away,” said Webb, 69, who set up the service in March.
His letters carry a “Webb’s Postal Service” stamp and are delivered around Wisbech and 22 neighbouring villages by a fleet of 12 vans. All senders of mail must be existing newspaper or magazine-buying customers of his Webb’s of Leverington newsagent and all deliveries must be in the local neighbourhood.
Major customers include local doctor’s surgeries, schools and estate agents.
The pioneer of newsagent postal services was The Welly Post, which was set up by a family newsagent in Somerset last December as a means of delivering Christmas cards more cheaply.
It was so popular that it has continued as a daily local postal service and distributes 50 letters a day within a two and a half mile radius of the shop.
The 30p Welly Post stamps carry the symbol of the obelisk-shaped Wellington Monument, erected after the Battle of Waterloo to celebrate the achievements of the general Duke who took his title from the town.
Trish Lettley, 38, thought up the Welly Post when customers told her that that the cost of posting Christmas cards was prohibitive. The guaranteed next-day deliveries were an instant hit and the Post delivered up to 300 cards a day during the festive period.
Clients now include local vets and garages, sending out reminders for vaccinations or MOTs. Although the business, EJ Teare newsagent, uses paper boys and girls for its 24 daily rounds, postal deliveries are done by adults. “It’s a bit more responsibility for the post,” says Ms Lettley. Many of the letters are transported by her father, Richard, a former milkman, on his bicycle.
Mr Webb said he had consulted the communications watchdog Ofcom before offering the service. An Ofcom spokesperson said that postal operators were required to abide by the Mail Integrity Code of Practice but were not obliged to register with the regulator unless they intended to deliver in excess of 2.5m items per quarter.