The Internet has been unkind to U.S. Postal Service revenue and mail volume, but it did pay dividends for the USPS during the holidays as sales at the postal service's online store nearly doubled.
Sales during the holiday season totaled $10.7 million, up from $5.4 million in the 2001 holidays, the USPS said yesterday. The store, at usps.com/shop, sells postage stamps, stationery, collectibles and other gift items. It also offers free shipping supplies to registered businesses and information on the U.S. commemorative stamp program and other resources for stamp collectors.
Sales at the store exceeded $38 million in fiscal year 2002, which ended in September, and are expected to be as much as 70 percent higher this fiscal year.
In addition to the Web site, the postal service offers direct sales of its products through a toll-free number or via order forms in its USA Philatelic catalog, which is produced quarterly. Typically, more than 70 percent of sales of postal products through those direct channels come from phoned or mailed in orders. So far this fiscal year, however, 43 percent of direct sales have come from the Internet.
The percentage of orders coming online is up even more. From November 2002 through January, the postal service shipped an average of 158,000 orders monthly, with 80,000 coming online each month. There have been 740,000 online orders so far in FY 2003, a 49 percent rise over the same period last year.
As a result of the online store's growth, the USPS may experiment with e-mail marketing programs to promote the site and its products, though USPS spokesman Don Smeraldi had no further details.
One area the postal service wants to increase online is sales to collectors. Only 4 percent of stamps bought online are used for collecting.
“Collectors really rely on the catalog rather than online, but we'd like to see the collectors doing more purchasing online,” Smeraldi said.