Postal Forum Mood Upbeat as Mailers Cheer Rate News

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NEW ORLEANS -- The mood was upbeat at the Spring 2003 National Postal Forum yesterday on the news that President Bush is expected to sign legislation tomorrow that will let the U.S. Postal Service lower payments to a pension plan and thereby keep rates steady at least until 2006.

"This is a historic time for the mailing community. In fact, it's probably the most historic time since postal reorganization 32 years ago," postmaster general John E. Potter said in an address to a packed audience at this morning's keynote session here.

Mailers attending the show said they already are seeing mail volume increases or anticipate mail growth in the months ahead.

"In the last week we've already seen volume increases, with extra work already coming in," said Wanda Senne, manager of postal affairs at Ace Marketing Services, Smyrna, GA, which mails 650 million pieces of mail per year, 80 percent of which is Standard mail. "I'm not sure if it is because of the [postal pension] bill or the economy picking up because of the war, but we are hoping it continues."

Jeffrey S. Jurick, president/CEO of Fala Direct Marketing Inc. in Melville, NY, said he is optimistic that mail volumes will rise, but that it will not happen right away.

"We anticipate that we will start to see volume increase by the end of the second quarter, and more increase in the third and fourth quarter," he said.

Other attendees said that though mail volume increases will be one benefit of the legislation, the real effect of delayed rate increases is that the mailing community will be able to focus on other initiatives, such as product redesign and presort optimization.

The mailing community will also be able to develop negotiated service agreements, such as the one the USPS and Capital One have filed with the Postal Rate Commission.

Despite the steady rates for several years, mailers and the postal service said efforts must continue to improve the postal service.

"The fact remains that we still face stiff challenges in the years ahead," Potter said. "We still face an uncertain economy, stiff competition and the reality of electronic diversion. The reality is that we have an old business model that is flawed, and that won't serve us much longer."

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