After Catalogers Got Walloped with a massive postal rate hike two years ago, many switched to letter-size booklets or slim-jim catalogs to keep costs down. But these catalogs have been under scrutiny by the U.S. Postal Service because they jam sorting machines.
Larry Davis, vice president of marketing for jewelry and gifts merchant Ross-Simons, is again urging the USPS to reduce the enhanced carrier route penetration (ECR) minimums for flats from 10 pieces to six pieces
The level of ECR penetration on a flat mailing “represents the most potential for a catalog mailer to increase circulation,” Davis said in a Jan. 26 letter to the manager of mailing standards at the USPS. Davis had made the same suggestion in a letter last April. (See “Slim-jims get squeezed,” June 2008.)
“This rule change would allow Ross-Simons to redirect millions of catalogs out of the letter class and back into flats,” Davis said in his latest letter. The USPS would enjoy greater revenue on a per-piece basis, he noted, “and catalogers will actually increase their mail volumes.”
Davis is responding to the federal register notice [#39 CFR part 111] for letter-size booklets and folded self-mailers. Published in December, the notice proposed revisions to slim-jims that included the use of larger tabs with no perforations, and changes to catalog paper weight and dimensions.
Implementing 39 CFR Part 111, Davis said in the letter, “will effectively increase our flat rate mailing costs by the full 40% from the rate case effective May 2007. I doubt the commissioners envisioned impact of this magnitude.”
Ross-Simons mailed more than 40 million catalogs in 2008. The company has forecast 20 million pieces for 2009.
“The economics are simple: We can’t break even on the 20 million books that we eliminated because the cost of flat postage is too high,” the letter states. “We have tried to stem our reduction in volumes by adopting the letter-size booklet rates, but the proposed rule will eliminate the slim-jim as a viable mail piece — thereby accelerating our mail reductions.”
When reached for additional comment, Davis noted that if Postal Service officials do essentially eliminate the slim-jim mailer in 2009, “they’ll find that they have killed an entire industry. They’ll get their per-piece rate up to 40 cents, but there won’t be anyone mailing catalogs.”