October Deliverability Hurt by Election Mailings

If your October sales were softer than expected, the glut of political mailings may be to blame. According to New City, NY-based mail tracking service U.S. Monitor, direct mail pieces in October took an average of 9.84 days to reach customers, compared with 8.65 days in October 2003. Worse, while 96.68% of direct mail pieces were ultimately delivered in October 2003, last month only 91.11% made it.

“We told our customers that we’d been seeing a slowdown of catalogs by the postal system,” says Paul Ercolino, vice president of sales and marketing for U.S. Monitor. “The amount of political mail affected all standard mail. It wasn’t just catalogs that showed a decrease in the percentage delivered and the time it takes.”

Goldie Russell, president of Lowell, AR-based A.G. Russell, says October sales for her company’s two catalogs, A.G. Russell Knives and Russell’s for Men, were 25%-35% below expectations—and she says poor deliverability is the reason.

“Our catalogs hit mailboxes 10 days late,” Russell says. “The impact of the election on the mail stream was more significant than in past years. I’ve been in this industry since ’88, but this was much greater than what we typically experience. The only thing I can guess, if you listen to the media, is that the two candidates spent more money than has ever been spent before, and I assume that a lot of that was spent on printed material that was put into the postal system.”

Concerns about mailbox glut and poor deliverability led “probably a dozen of our catalog customers to ask us to hold their mailings until after the election,” says Don Landis, vice president, postal affairs for Menomenee Fall, WI-based printer Arandell Corp. “I don’t know any other reason other than the hype of the last few weeks that drove them to the point where they didn’t want to risk it.”

Since 9/11, Landis says, catalogers have been more sensitive to the danger of their mailing getting interrupted by an event beyond their control. “I’ve even noticed it for postal holidays like Veteran’s Day, whereas in years’ past they wouldn’t pay attention to it,” says Landis. “I think that’s the biggest fear, that your biggest mailing with be out there, and there will be a disaster, and your response rates will be a disaster.”

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