USPS mulls 'summer sale' on Standard Mail

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The US Postal Service is explor­ing a proposed “summer sale” for Standard Mail, and members of the mailing community are cau­tiously optimistic about the idea.

The USPS recently announced preliminary plans for the sale, which would have to be approved by the Postal Regulatory Com­mission, for Standard Mail permit holders meeting a minimum vol­ume who would be able to qualify for the proposed 30% discount. The minimum volume number has not yet been finalized. Non­profit groups also would qualify.

The sale period would be from June 15 to September 15, and the USPS said the additional cost to the agency would be minimal since no additional processing would be needed.

The USPS estimated about 5% of the current 160,000 permit holders would qualify.

“We are always looking for ways to use our pricing flexibil­ity to improve business, and the current economic climate makes that more important than ever,” said Steve Kearney, SVP of customer relations for the USPS. “Promotional pricing is one possibility, an idea that would need to be reviewed by the Postal Regulatory Commission. As we move forward with specific pricing promotions and other business incentives, we'll announce them to the industry and the media.”

The Direct Marketing Association has already come out in favor of the idea.

“The current economic climate demands this new pricing strategy to grow mail vol­ume during the slow summer season,” said DMA president and CEO John Greco in a statement. “It has taken two years for this to come to fruition, and we welcome its continued progress.”

There might be some concern among mailers about the lead time to take advan­tage of the sale, said Jerry Cerasale, SVP of government relations for the DMA.

“Many mailers have already locked in June and July, so we are uncertain of how many can take advantage of it, but some will,” he said. “Because of a short lead time, the reaction to this won't be the same as if there was a lot more notice.”

Still, the idea is a good start, Cerasale continued. “Let's applaud them for it,” he said. “We hope the postal service uses this as a baseline to look at and implement fur­ther sales.”

Hamilton Davison, executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association, said there is “a lot of excitement” in the mailing industry for the proposed sale.

“We are very pleased they are thinking out of the box and using innovative approaches to stimulate mail,” he said.

Davison said he, too, was initially con­cerned about the short notice given mailers, but added that “there's a lot of excitement and appreciation” among catalogers for the sale.

Although the proposal still must be approved by the Postal Regulatory Com­mission, Davison estimated there's “a 75% chance” that the sale will happen.

“I think it will go through,” he said.

However, American Postal Workers Union president William Burrus said in a statement to union members that the proposal “represents a further erosion of uniform rates.”

“Does anyone remember the noble prin­ciple that every mailer should pay the same amount?” he wrote. “According to the con­cept of ‘universal service and uniform rates,' no matter where you live or who you are, postage rates should be the same.”

Burrus further said that the plan will not increase mail volumes.

“The record shows that as rates have been artificially reduced, volume has continued to drop — and at an unprecedented rate,” he wrote.

PRC spokesman Norm Scherstrom said the agency had not yet received an official proposal from the USPS to review. Once it does, the PRC will have up to 45 days, including a public comment period, to review the proposal.

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