With the fall holiday mailing season in full swing, it's clear in the mailing community that last autumn's flurry of direct mail activity may not happen this year.
More catalogers and direct mailers are cutting their circulation this fall. For example, Lillian Vernon Corp., Rye, NY, said that September circulation will be down 5 percent from last year.
“Given the economic situation and the uncertainty this year, we've decided to cut back on spending,” said David Hochberg, a company spokesman.
Other companies may send about the same amount of fall mail as they did last year.
Pat Mendonca, the U.S. Postal Service's manager of operations process support, said the agency “is planning basically for about the same volume as we had last year in terms of Standard Mail. We are expecting volume above normal capacity, but at about the same as we did last year.”
Andy Roussel, director of postal affairs and mailing operations at R.R. Donnelly, the major Chicago-based printer, said, “We are seeing about the same amount of volume in our plants this year that we had during last year's fall season.”
Fall mailing plans at the USPS were completed in July, took effect in August and will continue through Thanksgiving. Like last year, they included updating facilities' action plans, adding seasonal employees and using the Drop-Ship Appointment System, which went through improvements last year. The service lets mailers make appointments to unload their trucks filled with direct mail at postal processing facilities.
Mendonca said the fall mailing flows should improve over last year because of the new ASFM 100 sorting machines for flats, or catalog mailings, that are being deployed. ASFM 100s are more than twice as fast as the existing FSM 881s, so they process flat mail more efficiently and reduce associated costs. The USPS will have 361 of these new automated flat-sorting machines beginning this month. The agency anticipates processing more than half of the flats on these machines. Last year, the USPS had 77 of these sorters in the system.
“These systems have really helped us a lot,” Mendonca said. “They have a higher through-put, and they are faster.”
Though the USPS probably will be less busy than last year, “we have the capacity if we have more volume,” Mendonca said. “We have the ability to bring on even more temporary employees, for example, if this happens. We are prepared for it; we're just not going to implement it if we don't get the mail volume.”