Catalog Prospecting Rate? Not This Year

The U.S. Postal Service was not able to implement a prospecting rate for catalogers this year, according to Stephen M. Kearney, senior vice president, customer relations, for the USPS. But during a postal teleconference last week, Kearney said that the possibility for a prospecting rate remains on the table.

The USPS on Feb. 11 announced a 2.3% price increase for Standard Mail Flats, which is below the Consumer Price Index (3.8% for 2008). Still, many mailers have said that any increase during such a tough year (and after the enormous rate hike they suffered in 2007) will cause them to pull back on prospecting.

That’s where a special prospecting rate would have come in handy. The idea was first raised last June at the National Catalog Advocacy & Strategy Forum in Washington, an event sponsored by the American Catalog Mailers Association.

During the call, Kearney recognized that catalog mailers are “so dependent on the mail for the core of their businesses and, within that context, they need to do prospect mailing to be able to grow their businesses and stimulate growth.” He also noted the distinct separation between existing customers who have bought from a particular catalog and mailing lists obtained from outside sources.

When asked about a possible prospecting rate for catalogers, Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman Dan G. Blair said: “Prospecting rates are part of the pricing flexibility that the service has under PAEA (Postal Reform), and the commission is open to consideration of any proposals in this area.”

But may be a while before a catalog prospecting rate happens—if it does happen—as there are a “number of technical issues with this particular incentive that need to be dealt with as any specific proposal is drawn up,” Kearney tells Multichannel Merchant. “We continue to work with customers to determine how to spur growth, which is in everyone’s interest.”