USPS to Re-Launch Personalized Stamps

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The U.S. Postal Service said yesterday that personalized photographs on stamps could return as soon as May as it announced its search for vendors for the program, which had a short but popular test run last year.


Under the program, postal customers can order stamps with custom pictures or images for use with First Class, Priority and Express mail, but for personal use only. One likely vendor is Stamps.com, which handled the program during its test run last year.


After the USPS announcement, Stamps.com said it would begin accepting preorders for PhotoStamps immediately. The company said it expected that the USPS would begin a year-long market test of customized stamps on May 17 and that all preorders would be shipped at that time.


The first experiment with Stamps.com last year was to establish the commercial viability of customized stamps. With a longer market test, the USPS will be looking to see if the product has longevity and is more than a fad, said USPS spokeswoman Joanne Veto.


"The first run was a test," Veto said. "Now we're going to expand the window."


PhotoStamps are available in denominations ranging from 23 cents to $3.85. Current postal regulations prohibit advertising on stamps, and there is no indication when, or if, that might change, Veto said.


During last year's market test, Stamps.com was in discussions with several potential customers about business and marketing applications for personalized stamps, said Ken McBridge, president/CEO of Stamps.com. Many wanted to place their company's logo on a stamp.


"We think there's some good applications there," McBride said. "We're dealing with some archaic laws related to advertising the U.S. currency that we need to work though."


From Aug. 10 to Oct. 1, 2004, Stamps.com processed orders for more than 2.75 million personalized stamps, which the company dubbed PhotoStamps. The program generated $900,000 worth of revenue and $300,000 in profit for the company during its 7 1/2-week run, according to Stamps.com.


When the market test ended last year, orders were on the increase, McBride said. Stamps.com believes it will be able to prove to the USPS that the personalized-stamp concept has legs, he said.


Pets and children have been the most popular categories of images, according to Stamps.com, which has content guidelines prohibiting obscenity, copyright infringement and images of celebrities and public figures.


Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing and direct response TV marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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