Understanding Postal: USPS Faces Unprecedented Economic Stress
Catalogers with other ideas to help the USPS grow or retain their catalog volumes should contact the Postal Service’s new marketing group directly, or work through their service providers and/or trade associations.
Also on the positive side, the USPS is redesigning its Bulk Mail Center (BMC) facility and transportation network, a move that had been considered for the past few years. While the USPS has decided it can’t outsource the operations, largely because of volume losses, it plans to quickly move forward with consolidating and streamlining these facilities.
The move is designed to not only improve service for many mail categories, including catalogs, but also to significantly reduce USPS costs. The current BMC network has been in place since the ’80s and no longer supports the current mail preparation and entry environment.
Creative Still Restricted
On the negative side, the USPS is continuing to make changes to improve its operational efficiencies. In a global sense, that’s a good thing. But when it means narrowing mail design options, that’s bad.
And the USPS has accelerated its publication of proposed, and in some cases final, rule changes that restrict the design options for catalogs and other mail, including address placement; address font/spacing; flexibility of the piece; polywrap requirements that would reduce the maximum size of the piece; requirements for inserts, design of booklets and self-mailers; and incorporating change of address information.
Noncompliance with many of these requirements results in significant postage increases through assessment of penalties or ineligibility for discounted prices.
Industry associations, service providers and catalog companies have pushed back against these changes, advising the USPS that these types of changes will lessen the value proposition of mail vs. other media.
While there has been success on some of the proposals, catalogers need to be aware that the USPS continues to look for ways to optimize its automated processing, which may mean more rules that inhibit creative designs.