Friday 1 December 2017

Winter Cheer: the end of Business Customised Sheets

First there were Smilers, then there were Business Cusomised Sheets (BCS) aimed at company advertising.   Sadly that isn't how it stayed, and now BCS are coming to an end.

Writing in Graham Howard writes:
As predicted in this column (Q1-2017) Royal Mail have decided to end the Business Customised Stamp sheet service and have today released the following announcement in their Key News bulletin aimed at the Philatelic Market.
"Another recent review has looked at the use and popularity of the BCS service and having considered the number of BCS orders received over the past two years Royal Mail has taken the decision to end the BCS service in 2018. Last orders for Business Customised Sheets will be accepted on 31st March 2018 for delivery in May 2018. Following which the BCS service will cease, The Smilers service, used for smaller volumes, will remain."
Graham goes on to say:
In January of this year we reviewed the product, and proposed changes which, in our view, would have generated more interest and help make the product more commercially viable.
Maybe, maybe not, but Royal Mail ignored the suggestions and in my view that can only be good for the hobby, and the trade.

The writing was on the wall long ago and the only surprise to me is that the plug wasn't pulled earlier.  Over a year ago I wrote (Smilers Bubble Bursts - Stamps Not Posters!) about the history of the product:
Interest in all Smilers was already in decline [in 2011] and Royal Mail had started (in 2008) to produce its own version of the BCS, the Commemorative Sheet
Originally aimed as a business alternative to the personalised Smilers, Business Customised Sheets were launched in late 2001 and a few were used by companies for publicity or as gifts.  But some stamp dealers soon realised that there was an opportunity to diversify from first day and commemorative covers, and make some money instead from people interested in particular themes (football, Concorde, Dr Who, railways).  But by 2011 the decline had started (see Who's Smiling Now? Business Smilers take a dive). 
The stamp dealers, in conjunction with Royal Mail, were producing - in effect - glossy colourful posters, which happened to have 10 x 1st class stamps in them.  Purely money-making, not even philatelic.  Then Royal Mail took to selling some of these private productions through their Philatelic Bureau adding some sort of legitimacy to them, with the inevitable next step being that Royal Mail produced similar sheets under their own name at a much lower selling price but still over 3x face.
What was potentially a good idea for business advertising is probably the worst thing that has happened to British stamps in recent years.

When these expensive sheets - some of them initially sold for upwards of £50 each and most over £30 - are offered to dealers either as part of an estate or if the collector is seeking to diminish his holdings while still alive, they are with few exceptions treated as just so much postage.  Bearing in mind any of you can buy postage now at 80% of face (or even better for the right quantity) you must realise that dealers are paying between 35% and 60% of current face, not the original price.  So the most you can get for a sheet that cost you £30-£50 is £3.90.  The same applies to Royal Mail Commemorative Sheets some of which are still available on their website: others were sold at a discount before being withdrawn.

Graham and I will disagree on this, but I still maintain that they were a bad thing to be marketed at stamp collectors.  I have bought some BCS at fairs for face value - Manchester United, Norwich City, etc.  They make good stocking-filler Christmas presents for relatives who are fans. (No I don't actually roll them up!). 

And if you are buying postage they will certainly be different.  Look out for them in the 'at face' or 'discount postage' boxes on your next fair visit.

1 comment:

  1. The best news from Royal Mail for a long time


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