A Cambridgeshire news agent has launched its own local postal service - and will deliver letters the next day to 19 local villages for just 30p. The service is regulated, insured, and runs seven days a week - for half the cost of Royal Mail.
So is this the future of postal deliveries?
The Fenland Citizen revealed that the new service, operated by local newsagent Webbs of Leverington, will initially be just for those people who currently have newspapers or magazines delivered by the company already. However, the service will be available with a next-day guarantee even if a household only has one newspaper a week.
The owner told the newspaper: "We operate 12 vans with 16 members of staff taking people's newspaper and magazine orders out every day including Sundays to 19 villages, and so it is no hardship to take a few letters and cards out to those places at the same time."
Not the firstIt's a clever way to boost business for the company and offer a local service, and this isn't the first firm to get wise to the possibilities.
Last Christmas, EJ Teare newsagents in Wellington, Somerset, established a similar service. The Welly Post delivers anywhere within two and a half miles, guarantees delivery the next day, and charges just 30p. For just 10p extra the shop will also collect letters from customers' homes. The owner told the Western Morning News that her husband had recently retired, so enjoys the opportunity to do local deliveries to keep him busy.
Many communities also take advantage of the Scout Christmas post, which is given permission to operate between 25 November and 1 January every year, and last year charged between 15p and 20p a card. Most have a central post box, and local Scouts will deliver around the community during the festive period to raise money for the organisation.
And it's not just rural areas where initiatives have been set up. In Portsmouth, City Cycle Couriers Post operates in the postcode areas PL1, PL3 and PL4. Posting a small letter costs 46p, and a large letter 56p. Parcels cost as little as £3. There's a next day guarantee on them all, and they have a postal licence from postcom.
Is this the future?For locals these are proving vital services, especially where someone may not be terribly mobile, and may not have access to a computer in order to email their friends and neighbours. Over Christmas, clearly it constitutes a great way to save on Royal Mail costs without having to traipse across town.
At the moment, the big drawback is that they are only run on a local basis. However, with the price of a stamp going through the roof, it could justify the infrastructure costs of newsagents forming networks in order to operate on a larger scale.
The price of a first class stamp is already a ruinous 60p, and at the end of the month that will rise to 62p. A second-class stamp, meanwhile, will increase from 50p to 53p. A large letter will go from 90p to 93p, and a large second class letter will increase from 69p to 73p.
There are those who speculate that now the Royal Mail is in private hands, under pressure to generate profits and return money to shareholders, this may be the first of many rises in it's privatised form.
And as the cost of Royal Mail goes up, there may be many thousands of newly-retired people with a bike and some time on their hands who wonder whether there may be a business opportunity out there for them.
But what do you think? Will it catch on?