Summer Postal Sale for Catalog Mail

The U.S. Postal Service is Planning a “Summer Sale” on Postage for any increased standard mail volume for some standard mailers.

The Postal Service “is always looking for ways to use our pricing flexibility to improve business, and the current economic climate makes that more important than ever,” says spokesperson Dave Partenheimer. Promotional pricing is one possibility, he says.

The Direct Marketing Association issued a statement on April 10 giving the proposal a thumb’s up. According to the DMA, mailers would be offered 20% to 30% discounts from June 15 to Sept. 15 for mail volume over and above that mailer’s past mailing.

How does USPS track the volume?

The Postal Service would establish a base mail volume for each mailer derived from its mailings from June 15 to Sept. 15, 2008, adjusted downward by the current mail trends for that mailer during the first two quarters of fiscal 2009. Any mail volume above that baseline would receive the “sale” price.

The Postal Service will be establishing a separate base line for each mailer and will provide an appeal to each mailer to contest those calculations. Most likely, only the 4,000 largest Standard Mailers will be eligible this summer.

This proposal must receive approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission. The DMA will ask the USPS to establish a Standard Mail “sale” for summer 2010, so that mailers will have a year to plan.

The idea for a summer mail sale is not exactly a new one — it’s been kicked around for more than a decade, says Hamilton Davison, executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association. Davison had made a presentation to Postmaster General John E. Potter and five other USPS officers in March 2008, offering several options for catalog rate relief.

One of them was a special rate for off-peak times when the USPS needs mail volume. Davison says he pushed for more than three months in the summer, “because that’s not the most productive time for most catalogers.” Potter presented it to the Mailing Industry CEO Council, of which Davison is a founding member.

Davison sees little downside to the program. “I do not think it moves the needle on postal volumes, given the short lead-time, slow summer selling season for most catalogers, and the general state of our economy,” he says. “But I give the USPS points for trying to innovate.”

This is completely new for a government agency that historically has had a protected monopoly, Davison points out. “The mailing industry would do well to support it.”