USPS Saturday limited delivery

February 12, 2013

The US Postal Service announced the intention to limit Saturday delivery. This change affects deliveries to homes and businesses, but does not restrict mail development, acceptance, or mail movement in the system.  All mail sent to USPS Post Office Boxes will be delivered on Saturday.  Only Parcels will be delivered to homes and businesses on Saturday.  This can create confusion for mail creators and the recipients.  If we examine the mail categories individually, it can help commercial mail producers plan and communicate changes necessary to best service the end user of the mail.

Parcel Services – This is a continuing profit center for the Postal Service.  Parcels, or “packages” in the news media, will be eligible for delivery six days a week.  It is commonly reported parcels provide necessary, planned prescription delivery in compliance with health care limits.  Beyond pharmaceuticals, Parcel services directly support routine commerce for business and homes and compete directly with private package options in the market.  The public is often unaware private package service via UPS or FedEx uses the USPS to deliver remote or low volume destinations.  This “last mile” partnership is of mutual benefit to all companies.  Keeping Saturday delivery of Parcels is an integral continuation of a profitable and effective service to the customer. Companies creating printed matter Parcel should review the benefits of being the only Saturday delivery to homes.

Standard Mail – Letters and Flats. Known as Bulk Mail, this contains catalogs, general publications, advertising, solicitations and subscription renewals.  Standard mail will deliver only to USPS PO Boxes on Saturday, but not to homes or businesses.  The advertising industry worked diligently over decades to deliver product messages at the weekend when consumers had more free time to read and decide.  Now this essential period of review must compete during the week with other duties in the business or home.  The benefit of Standard mail was using the two days of weekend opportunity to prompt the consumer to buy.  It is believed that three or more days a message is fallow leads the consumer to defer action and maybe never even return to the mail offering.

Standard mail creators must now review their planning to deliver mail in home on Fridays, or better Thursdays, to achieve the longest shelf life for consumer reading before a call to action during the weekend. If no change is made to the usual production, then Standard mail, which used to be delivered on Saturday, will arrive on Monday.  While overall mail volume is down according to the USPS, a full mailbox on Monday dilutes the presentation of the Standard mail message and limits the incentive to keep the mailpiece until the coming weekend decisions.  Monday holidays means more Tuesday volume delivery.  This is not a prospect content creators desire when developing the marketing message.

The national USPS processing centers have been reduced in number.  The reductions or “right sizing” will continue based on volume.  Standard mail will continue to move and may show time improvement in addition to reduced wear and tear in handling.  The local delivery unit post office changes will present the most obvious change to the Standard mail customer.  Some facility realignment to reflect population density and the type of mail received will continue after the Saturday delivery change.

Periodicals – The leisurely weekend read will be different.  An editorial cartoon with the captioned, “Friday Evening Post” is a pun on the lost Saturday delivery and reading. Periodicals, especially weekly titles, have presented news, commentary recap and notable advancements aimed at a Saturday audience.  To be in home for the maximum read time means delivery by Friday.  The USPS recognizes this.  During processing plant and delivery reorganization planning the needs of Periodicals made the agenda. It was hoped the needs of readers would help drive the agendas, but it has not worked out that way.  On time delivery of Periodicals, as defined by USPS standards, is averaging in the mid-to-high 60 percentile range nationwide according to industry reporting.  Even with stable Periodical volume, it is unproven there is enough processing time and equipment to deliver every Periodical title available on a Friday.  Some publishers have to plan for a Thursday in-home; others will be dropped to the Monday madness, especially in areas of low mail density for that publisher. Weekly periodical addresses that fall into less than 3-Digit category will be challenged to arrive in the same date range as before.

Co-Palletization & Co-Mail – The industry developed a hybrid and interweaving processing strategy to lower costs and improve time delivery for FLATS mail.  CO-anything was inaugurated by industry when the Postal Service could not provide a solution of its own.  Cessation of Saturday delivery is a minor adjustment in the pool date planning by CO-providers.  The CO-providers have more flexibility and established planning tools to forecast supply and delivery times.  It is with great interest the FLATS mailers are working with CO-providers to plan what the mail stream will look like after early August 2013.  Currently, the USPS is not openly involved with whole industry segments, only select invites, to forecast the last quarter of the year. A large survey could be planned to tailor the processing plant realignments and operating hours.  In general, Saturday nondelivery will produce a heavier delivery day, Friday or Monday, for FLATS.  Poly and cover wrap options may have to change to best accommodate FLATS mail not currently in this system. The upside may be less handling damage and improved delivery time to high-density destinations.

First Class – The USPS reports three plus years running that all levels of First Class mail are down.  There is some volume promise in the Priority Mail and to a lesser extent, Express Mail offerings.  First Class, even in a diminished volume is still a several billion-piece activity.  This volume cannot be dismissed as inconsequential.  Per piece, First Class is the most profitable segment of the mail.  It is easy to assume the volume would be protected with the best service and numerous processing points to deliver in the least time. First Class mail evolves continually from the anvil of design improvement. The size and construction makes processing this mail one of the more efficient industrial actions in the economy.

Still, the USPS, after receiving reports of field hearings and additional studies, concludes customers really do not mind if Saturday letter mail ends. Ends as long as recipients know the other delivery days are somewhat firm. This scenario is troubling for commercial invoice and statement producers.  How do you effectively plan a five-day delivery window uniformly throughout the country while optimizing return response from the client – with or without penalty fees?  Merchandise mail, like the DVDs offering unlimited mailings in a month, can count on four, sometimes five, days a month the customer cannot turn the subscription around fast enough to receive the same value originally agreed at the start.  Personal correspondence remains as the touchstone of how it drives the process. Whom are the next generation to send letters, not just celebratory cards? Is personal correspondence really the shoulder on which a decision about Saturday deliver should be based? Is personal correspondence relevant in overall mail industry planning?

First Class service locally went from next day to two-day service.  National service changed from three-day to a five-day average with an oscillation in between. The public may not be aware of this, but mail service providers are.  Mail providers worked diligently with clients to project, sometimes by region, when First Class mail should arrive in-home.  The mail drops had a dynamic response to a six-day window of delivery that will be reduced.  First Class mail is more than general correspondence.  It is the legal requirement for certain types of transaction mail and notices.  The Postal Service faces the daunting responsibility of efficient processing and transit of its most visible and IMb tracked products.  Processing center realignments may benefit First Class mail eventually, but no delivery on Saturday forces mail creators and their vendors to reconfigure in-home dates with or without postal assistance.

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