WEB EXCLUSIVE - Understanding Postal: What a 5-Day USPS Delivery Week Means for Direct Marketers
In late March the U.S. Postal Service officially presented its plan to move to a five-day delivery week to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). Although the centerpiece of the USPS’ plan is the elimination of street address delivery on Saturdays, direct marketers should be aware there are many more potential changes that could impact their businesses.
Timing In-Home Delivery of Mail
While the USPS has been careful to say that customers would experience no change in their service standards, marketers must know that under the proposal, the applicable service standard for origin mail entered on a Saturday wouldn't start until the following Monday (or Tuesday if Monday is a holiday). This means the expected delivery date shifts two days to three days later.
Mail drop-shipped to plants/delivery units on Saturdays will still have a service standard that begins that day as long as the mail is entered before the critical entry time (CET) for that facility. This may sound like it solves the problem — particularly since a large percentage of catalogs are drop-shipped — but the USPS is likely to reduce mail acceptance hours on Saturdays, limit the number of appointments or make changes to CETs to accommodate changes in facility processing on weekends. Any of these changes could restrict the ability of mailers or service providers to enter mail on a Saturday to achieve desired in-home delivery dates.
Direct marketers who currently target in-home delivery for Saturday will need to re-evaluate their in-home delivery days and processes. Under the USPS’ plan, that mail will not be delivered until the following Monday/Tuesday. Those who want to move operations earlier to achieve Friday in-home delivery should begin discussions with service providers immediately. There may be limited capacity within the complex mail production and logistics supply chain to achieve this goal.
When Could the USPS Implement 5-Day Delivery?
The USPS has set a goal of its fiscal year 2011 (October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011) to implement five-day delivery. But looking at the process that must take place, it's unlikely implementation of five-day delivery could occur before May/June 2011.
The PRC isn't likely to issue its advisory opinion until September, allowing six months to hear testimony and collect data. Also, Congress must eliminate the existing legislative provision which requires the USPS to deliver mail six days per week. It's unlikely Congress will hold meaningful hearings on the topic prior to the PRC issuing its advisory opinion, which means hearings are likely to occur in October/November. Lastly, if Congress were to approve the plan, it likely wouldn't do so until December at the earliest.
The USPS has said it would take it at least six months to implement the plan, which takes the implementation time line right to that May/June 2011 period.
Keeping on Top of Developments
It's critical that direct marketers keep on top of developments as they occur. The USPS has developed an area on its website dedicated to providing information on its five-day delivery plans (www.usps.com/communications/five-daydelivery), and extensive information is also available on the PRC’s website (docket N2010-1).