The Postal Service faced its own fiscal cliff in 2012 while the larger mailing industry continued to press for reform and innovation. But don’t count mail out just yet. A strong election season reminded many Americans that mail still matters, even in the digital age. And in Europe, one postal operator didn’t let 500 years of history stand in the way of reinventing itself.
Looking over the headlines, the staff at the Office of Inspector General has pulled together the list below of the top 10 postal stories for 2012. After you read them, vote for your top story of the year, or let us know if we missed one.
Have you ever heard of Alaska Bypass? It’s a service the U.S. Postal Service offers only in Alaska, allowing shippers to send shrink-wrapped pallets of goods at Parcel Post rates using private airlines. The Postal Service pays airlines to carry the goods to rural Alaskan communities by delivering these goods directly to the stores located in rural areas. The shippers effectively and entirely “bypass” the Postal Service’s delivery network.
The Postal Service has to pay the airlines much more than it receives in postage for this program. In FY 2010, the Postal Service lost $73 million on Alaska Bypass. In addition, the people receiving the shipments are usually retail merchants, because the orders must be at least 1,000 pounds. The Postal Service doesn’t provide this kind of service for retailers anywhere else in the country. Alaska Bypass began when it was much more difficult to get goods to rural Alaskans than it is today. There are even some that say it no longer seems to fit with the Postal Service’s mission.Read More
In today’s world we have the opportunity to do just about anything with just the click of a mouse and a few key strokes. Recent studies show online retail sales continuing to grow despite the economic slowdown and decline of overall retail sales. A previous blog, Could Radio Frequency Identification Make the U.S. Postal Service the Premier Delivery System, stated, “Last year Americans spent $155.2 billion shopping online. This year Americans are projected to spend more than $190 billion.” Purchases made online have to be shipped and this provides a great opportunity for the Postal Service to increase parcel delivery service.
The Postal Service delivers almost half the world’s mail and more than 171 billion pieces annually, of this amount, roughly 3 billion are packages (Source: 2010 Report on Form 10-K, United States Postal Service). In addition, the Postal Service is often the last mile option for delivering FedEx, UPS and DHL packages. In 2007, if given a choice, 46 percent of consumers would select the Postal Service to deliver their packages.(Source:Package Delivery Study conducted by comScore, March 2007.)
Offering volume incentives is a common business practice in the U.S. and around the world. Although the U.S. Postal Service offers incentives to businesses that presort their mail, the agency does not offer incentives based strictly on the volume of packages shipped. One reason might be that offering volume incentives would lower the profit margin on each package shipped; yet, the potential volume increase of items shipped would make up for the smaller profit margins.
E-retail is a multibillion-dollar industry through which millions of transactions are made via clearinghouses, such as Amazon.com and eBay. The e-retail industry continues to grow and includes on-line sales in virtually every industry. In the U.S., online retail spending for the Q4 2010 reached a record $43.4 billion, up from $39.0 billion in Q4 2009. This accelerated growth rate represented the fifth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and second quarter of double-digit growth rates in the past year. This trend will likely continue as more online people turn to the internet for their shopping needs, and younger, digital-savvy generations increasingly flex their spending power. Companies like eBay, Amazon.com, and traditional retailers with strong web operations should continue to benefit from this growth.
Increases in e-shopping means an increase in the quantity of goods shipped is also increasing. Most vendors have their preferences, which are frequently based on cost. Should the Postal Service take advantage of the increased amount of shipping generated by e-retailers by offering incentives?
Yes or no, and why?
This blog is hosted by the Office of Audit’s Financial Reporting Directorate.Read More
Coopetition, is a buzzword cropping up in many business publications these days. Basically, it means that competing firms look for ways to cooperate with each other, rather than compete head-to-head for business. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service, the United Parcel Service (UPS) now has a program that allows customers of participating retailers to return merchandise by dropping it in any U.S. Postal Service mailbox, or at any post office. The program features a special label that makes the service possible. After a return package is dropped off at a Postal Service location, a UPS driver picks it up and the UPS ground network transports it back to the retailer. UPS, which has its main air hub in Louisville, KY, began testing the service last year with a few retailers and is expanding it because of “positive response.” Some say this is an example of successful coopetition.
There are a number of other current partnership programs with competitors. The Postal Service acts as a “last mile” partner for both UPS and FedEx, handling thousands of deliveries. Federal Express performs similar duties for the Postal Service providing air service for Postal Service parcels domestically as well as providing international logistics for the Postal Service’s Global Express Guaranteed service. In certain conditions, coopetition can be a “win-win-win”; helping not only the two businesses, but also the consumer.
Do you think these partnerships benefit the public through greater efficiencies or hurt the competitive level? Let us know what you think!
This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC). Read More