USPS Changes May Affect Catalog Delivery

Jul 24, 2013 4:46 PM  By

capitol-dome-300If the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has its way, the United States Postal Service will eliminate to-the-door mail delivery and replace it with curbside and cluster box delivery. And that may have an effect on how merchants mail catalogs to prospects and customers alike.

According to an article published by Reuters, the USPS began that change in service for Americans who move into newly-built homes. But a fact sheet released by the office of committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) says rolling the policy out to existing addresses would yield a potential annual savings of between $4.2 billion and $6.4 billion annually.

Unaware of the proposed plan, which is part of the Postal Reform Act of 2013, Susan Landay told Multichannel Merchant it is “jaw-dropping,” but was skeptical it would pass.

“If [Congress] can’t eliminate Saturday delivery, I can’t imagine them getting rid of door-to-door,” said Landay, president of catalog mailer Trainers Warehouse.

Though the USPS has had its share of financial woes, Landay said removing the door-to-door service will not be a perfect fix.

“It’s like getting a gallbladder operation when you have a kidney stone,” Landay said.

Hamilton Davison, president and executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association, told Multichannel Merchant  that the vast majority of USPS customers support 5-day delivery, but won’t support mail delivery to a cluster box.

“It’s troubling to me that Congress has not looked at the impact on the mail recipient,” Davison said. “We’re all in favor of cost savings, but not to the extent that it affects American’s love for the mail and to the extent that impedes people’s enthusiasm for receiving mail.”

Davison said if the move of mail delivery points creates less interest in the mail by American consumers, it will have a really negative impact on catalog volume.

Rick Binger, founder and president of catalog consultancy Catalog Process Group, said he feels a move to cluster boxes will have a negative impact on catalog delivery, as well as other direct mail.

“When I have seen the cluster [mailboxes] in an apartment type setting, the bulk mail is not even delivered to individual mailboxes,” Binger told Multichannel Merchant.

But if catalogs intended for a cluster box recipient are placed in a community area, like Binger sees in apartment buildings, it may make catalogs a more valuable prospecting tool.

“It is another step in the prospecting process because other people may pick up a catalog someone has discarded,” Binger said.

Currently, Trainers Warehouse ships a 48-page catalog monthly to its in-house list, but also rents names from Abacus and Merit Direct. If H.R. 2748 were to eventual pass, Landay said Trainers Warehouse would have to ultimately be reactive to the change.

Although Trainers Wairhouse does not have a plan in place, Landay said she might consider the idea of being more selective on who receives the catalog.

While the elimination of to-the-door delivery may affect B2C catalog mailers, some B2B catalog mailers are not as concerned.

New Pig vice president of direct marketing Robert Cameron told Multichannel Merchant in an email that the home delivery move should not affect it, since the majority of its mail goes to business addresses.

Multichannel Merchant’s Daniela Forte, Erin Lynch and Tim Parry contributed to this report.