Editor’s Note: An Exigent Postal Matter

The U.S. Postal Service on July 19 announced a splashy campaign showcasing the power of catalogs. “Getting Started in Catalogs” targets online retailers and hopes to educate them on the joys of mailing print catalogs. The campaign includes a “Catalogs and e-tailing” instructional DVD and a live Webinar series, which are supported by print ads and a targeted direct mail campaign.

Ironically, the USPS less than two weeks earlier had filed an exigent rate case with the Postal Regulatory Commission. If the rate case is passed and increases are implemented Jan. 2, 2011, postage for Standard Mail flats, or catalogs, would go up 5.1%. Well, that’s not much of an incentive to jump into the print catalog business — or to stay in it.

We all know that the Postal Service is in dire financial straits, mail volume is tanking and clearly something must be done. But is it wise to spend your time and money trying to court a new customer base — many of whom have no interest in cataloging — while alienating your core with a price increase, whose validity many question?

As Hamilton Davison, executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association, says in the article, if postal rates go up 5% in January, most catalogers are going to take that out of circulation volume.

I doubt the Postal Service is going to make up for that in new business drummed up from the “Getting Started in Catalogs” campaign. The mudslinging from the Affordable Mail Alliance — a new group formed to fight the exigent rate case — and the USPS isn’t going to help matters any.

Don’t get me wrong: I would love for the USPS to encourage more Web merchants to mail catalogs — that’s good for my business. But the high cost of mailing catalogs is what keeps most pure-plays from contemplating the print channel. A 5% increase in postage, on top of other rising production costs, isn’t going to sweeten the deal any.

Speaking of print catalogers and Web merchants, we profile some real winners this month. We present the Gold and Silver winners of the 2010 MCM Awards, including why they won, how some can do even better and what you can steal from them.

2009 was not an easy year for merchants to produce their best work, so taking home an award in 2010 is a real accomplishment. To all the winners: Congratulations on a job very well done!