Editor’s Take: On the Great Postal Disaster of 2007
For this commentary, I’d like to take both a glass-half-full and a glass-half-empty look at this development.
On the half-full side: Can anything positive come out of this? I’m dating myself, but in the late 1980s, the catalog business, by and large, had become fat and bloated. There were numerous redundant titles out there (remember The Sporting Edge? Inmac?), and many were either just getting by their break-even points or losing money. Then, following the huge postage increases of ’88 and ’91, the industry suffered some rough times. In particular, the undercapitalized, poorly managed catalogers either went out of business or were absorbed by healthier companies that only were interested in their lists.
In the long run, however, the strong that survived grabbed hold of better and more efficient ways to sell by catalog and other channels, using variations of some of the tips listed above. And by the late ’90s, the industry was thriving again. (How much was business booming? Personally, I’ll never forget being part of the 266-page June 1998 issue of the old Catalog Age. The thing must’ve weighed 5 lbs., easily.)
So, one can always hope that the catalog/multichannel business will pull through the tough times ahead as a more viable way of doing business.
On the glass-half-empty side, however, this whole thing stinks, doesn’t it? This business, which has thrived through past postal adversity, certainly doesn’t deserve postage increases running as high as 40 frickin’ percent, due to a seriously flawed postal rate-making system.
Sorry, I’m venting here, but it also seems unfair that publications like ours need to be publishing articles like the one we ran in our January Understanding Postal column by Gene Del Polito (“Spare Your Bottom Line: Convert Your Catalog to Letter-size”). Don’t get me wrong, Gene wrote a great article that addressed postal regulation changes in the postal rate case, and I highly recommend you read it if you haven’t already.