Trends in Print and Mail

The Berkshire Company Blog

Retail Counters at the U.S. Postal Service – A Modest Proposal

Posted by Mark Fallon on Mar 13, 2018 2:10:00 PM

I often visit my local post office on Saturdays. There are several reasons for this habit. First, I travel during the workweek, so it’s convenient to pick up my packages, drop off mail, and sign for any Certified Mail letters. Next, it reminds me of being a kid and stopping by the Woburn Post Office to say “Hi” to my father, who was usually working the window on Saturday mornings. And lastly, I enjoy watching my fellow postal patrons interact with the clerks.

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United States Postal Service / USPS / U.S. Postal Service

Looking Ahead – 2018 National Postal Forum

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 20, 2018 2:00:00 PM

There’s still snow on the ground in my backyard, but I’m thinking about the warm weather down in Texas. That’s because I just received my catalog for the 2018 National Postal Forum (NPF) – May 6 – 9, 2018 in beautiful San Antonio.

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United States Postal Service / National Postal Forum

Implementing the US Postal Service 2018 Rate Changes

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 8, 2018 2:05:00 PM

On Sunday, January 21, 2018, the new US Postal Service (USPS) postage rates and rules go into effect, so mailers need to take action to be properly prepared. For most mailers, the first day of mailing under the new rates will be Monday, January 22, 2018. The new rates represent about a 1.9% increase over the current prices for mailing, or “Market Dominant” products and 3.9% increases for shipping, or “competitive” products.

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United States Postal Service

Trends in Print and Mail - The Top 10 Posts from 2017

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 3, 2018 5:20:00 AM

A new administration and a new congress took office in 2017. Along with those changes, there was a brief hope for legislative reform when a joint bill was passed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. As the President and the Senate majority are from the same party, perhaps nominees to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors would be approved.

However, the legislation has since stalled and the Senate hasn’t scheduled any hearings on the nominees. Letter mail volumes – for both First Class Mail and USPS Marketing Mail – have declined. The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) announced their findings and proposed rulemaking after completing the mandatory 10-year review of the system for regulating postage rates for Market Dominant products – and the responses from industry and USPS leadership have been negative. Mergers and acquisitions of service providers continue at a brisk pace.

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United States Postal Service / Industry Vendors / Operations Management / National Postal Forum / Outsourcing

7 Simple Truths About the U.S. Postal Service Finances

Posted by Mark Fallon on Nov 19, 2017 3:26:09 PM

Last week, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) released their financial results for FY2017. Revenues and expenses both declined, and their reported losses were $2.7 billion. On cue – critics of the USPS, along with reporters who didn’t read beyond the first paragraph of the financial report, declared that the USPS is on an inevitable path to bankruptcy and irrelevance.

Here’s what they missed: + Read More

United States Postal Service

2017 Presidential Nominees to the USPS Board of Governors: Progress or Politics?

Posted by Mark Fallon on Oct 30, 2017 8:51:01 AM

Last week, President Trump nominated 3 people for the 9 open seats on the United States Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors (Board). Because the Senate hasn’t confirmed any nominees since 2009, there are no presidentially-appointed members of the Board. The terms were designed to be staggered,  so there are several open seats with terms expiring in the near future.

The new nominees represent a mix of political and management qualifications. 

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United States Postal Service / USPS

2018 Postage Rate Increase: The 50-Cent Stamp is Here!

Posted by Mark Fallon on Oct 8, 2017 1:39:13 PM

On Friday, October 6, 2017, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) filed the rate case for Market Dominant products with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). Set to go into effect on January 21, 2018, the new rates represent about a 1.9% increase over the current prices for mailing, or “Market Dominant” products and 3.9% increases for shipping, or “competitive” products.

Interestingly, this price increase comes in the absence of both a Board of Governors (Board) and the anticipated PRC review of the ratemaking process.

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United States Postal Service / Operations Management / USPS

Support Your Local Postal Customer Council 2017

Posted by Mark Fallon on Sep 12, 2017 5:00:00 AM

For mailers across the United States, the next best educational opportunity is National Postal Customer Council (“PCC”) Week, which takes place September 25 – 29, 2017 at multiple locations throughout the country.

PCCs have a variety of events scheduled – from luncheons, to half-day seminars to full-day conferences. At almost every event, a senior representative from the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) will be present to discuss upcoming postal initiatives and field questions from the audience. Their presentation will be supplemented with training on subjects like networking, quality control and professional management.

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United States Postal Service / Postal Customer Council

Postage Budgets Await No Agency

Posted by Mark Fallon on Aug 22, 2017 4:36:00 AM

Sometime in the next month, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) will complete their review of how the United States Postal Service (USPS) sets postage rates. There have been strong protests from several mailer associations against allowing the USPS to increase rates for Market Dominant products beyond the rate of inflation. On the other hand, the USPS has argued that the existing rules prevent them from establishing the rates necessary to cover their expenses.

As the prospects for legislative postal reform remain dim, the USPS needs more flexibility in setting rates. The CPI is a poor standard to use for postage rates, as most of the USPS expenses are for transportation and personnel. The price index for gas has consistently risen higher than CPI, as have health insurance rates. Ending the CPI cap will put the USPS on a stronger financial footing.

The PRC hasn’t indicated what their decision might be. They could leave the cap in place, they could modify the cap, or they could remove the cap altogether. Whatever they do, the USPS will then develop the proposed rates for 2018, probably releasing the pricing in October.

For most companies, October is too late in the planning cycle. Many of our clients are already submitting their preliminary 2018 budgets. For the past decade, managers could look up the CPI, add a few points as a buffer, and calculate their future postage costs. With no PRC decision, there are no guideposts to follow.

Predicting the future is a fool’s errand. Especially when it comes to political bodies like the PRC. However, not planning for the future is the hallmark of a fool. What’s a manager to do?

It’s probable that the PRC will lift the price cap on Market Dominant prices, with some type of controls. Postmaster General Brennan has repeatedly stated that the USPS want to grow the business of mail. A drastic rate increase won’t help them reach that goal.

A reasonable rate increase would be 5%. This would bring rates close to where they would be if the Exigent Rate Increase wasn’t rolled back in 2016. Also, it’s consistent with the annual rate increases of both FedEx and UPS – not including the holiday surcharge both companies recently announced.

Most managers are asked to reduce spending, and a significant rate increase will be unwelcome news. Savvy leaders will need to look for other methods of limiting the impact. That starts with taking advantage of the heavier weights allowed for machinable letter mail. Mailings should be combined and householded to a single envelope. Wherever possible, flats that weigh less than 3.5 ounces should be redesigned for 6 x 9 letter envelopes.

Mailers need to take a second look at the Promotions & Incentive Programs for First-Class & USPS Marketing Mail. Savings that seemed small before will be key to offset additional expenses. Mail service providers can add value to relationships by finding ways to easily enroll customers in these programs.

While no one knows the amount, postage rates will increase in 2018. Managers should budget and plan accordingly.

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United States Postal Service / Operations Management

USPS Financial Woes Won’t Deliver Postal Reform

Posted by Mark Fallon on Aug 15, 2017 5:00:00 AM

The United States Postal Service (USPS) released their 3rd Quarter 2017 Financials last week, and as expected, the news wasn’t good. While the USPS continues to reduce expenses – down 2.4% – they weren’t able to generate enough income due to slumping mail volumes, resulting in a “controllable loss” of $587 million.

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United States Postal Service

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