Drooping enthusiasm for automation

YOU HAVE TO GIVE THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE some credit for trying to do right (or, maybe, less wrong) by catalogers in the past two years, with the lower rate hikes and summer mail sales. But it still seems the USPS needs a reality check on catalogs.

I’m talking about the final rule on the deflection standards, or “droop” test, published in February. This test is designed to prevent flimsy catalogs from jamming up the Postal Service’s equipment. But as Jim Tierney’s story on page 16 points out, it’s riddled with problems for catalog mailers.

For one, the test for compliance with the new standards is too subjective. Whether your catalogs pass or fail is going to be largely up to the postal worker that day — not good.

And there are harsh penalties for failing the test. I’ve also heard that the standards could create problems with comailing — something catalogs now rely on to keep costs down.

It doesn’t help that a USPS spokesperson suggests catalogers add inserts or use a different paper stock for the cover to ensure that their catalogs past the droop test. Really?

You’d think the USPS would understand that merchants have resorted to thinner catalogs because they need to cut costs. According to MCM’s Outlook 2010 survey, 40% of respondents have decreased catalog page counts in the past year; the same percentage have decreased paper stock/weight.

And with catalogs becoming more of a branding tool and Web/store driver, mailers may never return to fat catalogs with heavy paper. The USPS will just have to deal with that.

The deflection dilemma reminds me of the limitations the Postal Service recently put on slim-jim-size catalogs. Thanks to the new tabbing and thickness requirements for slim-jims, it’s hardly worth it to mail the tall, skinny booklets, so many catalogers have abandoned the size.

I said this about slim-jims in 2008, and I’ll say it again now about deflection: Instead of trying to force catalogers to revise their books to fit its equipment, perhaps the USPS should change its machines so that they can handle thinner catalogs. Because droopy catalogs are most likely the new reality.

Partner Content

Hincapie Sportswear Finds Omnichannel Success in the Cloud - Netsuite
For more and more companies, a cloud-based unified data solution is the way to make this happen. Custom cycling apparel maker Hincapie Sportswear has leveraged this capability to gain greater visibility into revenue streams, turning opportunities into sales more quickly while gaining overall operating efficiency. Download this ecommerce special report from Multichannel Merchant to more.
The Gift of Wow: Preparing your store for the holiday season - Netsuite
Being prepared for the holiday rush used to mean stocking shelves and making sure your associates were ready for the long hours. But the digital revolution has changed everything, most importantly, customer expectations. Retailers with a physical store presence should be asking themselves—what am I doing to wow the customer?
3 Critical Components to Achieving the Perfect Order - NetSuite
Explore the 3 critical components to delivering the perfect order.
Streamlining Unified Commerce Complexity - NetSuite
Explore how consolidating multiple systems through a cloud-based commerce platform provides a seamless experience for both you, and your customer.