That’s not to say the situation is hopeless. Royal Mail is estimated to have almost 50pc of the UK’s parcel delivery business. This scale and the cash-generative nature of the company means it is well-placed to survive, if not thrive as it is able to invest in new technology to deliver efficiencies smaller competitors can’t hope to match, as well as being able to improve service, such as the trial of Sunday deliveries.
Ms Greene is also trimming away at costs, and analysts reckon there is plenty of fat left to go, a consequence of its centuries of public ownership. The company cut 3,500 jobs last year, generating £191m in redundancy costs, and while this axe-wielding will pay off in the long term, a 2.8pc pay rise for frontline staff to keep them on board during the chief executive’s transformation of Royal Mail weighs on operating profit.
The biggest issue for the company is the structural decline in the number of letters being sent. We’re just not writing like we used to, and companies which once posted out bills are steadily making it harder for customers to receive a printed copy as websites and telephone payments allow them to cut costs. Royal Mail is campaigning to preserve printed communication but ultimately it’s fighting a losing battle.
This was referred to in the update, which revealed a 2pc decline in addressed letter volumes. Even the boost from the EU referendum mailshots had only a small impact – discounting these letter volumes were 4pc lower.
There has been some relief for Royal Mail. Watchdog Ofcom’s decided not to impose price controls on letter postage after an investigation over concerns of a lack of competition in the market following Whistl’s withdrawal last year.