Yesterday, NPR discussed the challenges of the US Postal Service after reporting a $3.8 billion revenue loss for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009.
The revenue loss corresponded to a reported 13% decline in mail volume.
I’ve noticed a significant decrease on my end since Dec 2007 as well. For the 2008 and 2009 – the number of credit card offers and direct mail catalogs arriving daily was 0. This number is only now picking back up – maybe one per week. Nowhere near the multiple items per day we received in 2006 and 2007.
We’re even transporting Netflix DVDs less.
I have a hard-time imaging the USPS returning to profitability with first class stamps less than 50 cents a piece. Then again, none of the bulk mailings I mentioned above had first class stamps on them. So, either first class stamps are the USPS’s only profit – or they’re a loss leader.
My bet is the latter.
This puts the Postal Service in a tough spot. FedEx and UPS are taking the high end of their business. Email, Facebook, and 37Signals are taking the low end.
There are a few things we send via the USPS – things that aren’t easily digitized and not urgent enough to send via a private carrier:
- ‘Thank you’ notes from the kids.
- Holiday cards.
Leads me to some interesting questions:
Who else could handle that exchange?
What would a non-profit competitor to the USPS look like?
Even one that didn’t sell first class stamps or provide service to every address.
Or, restating the questions –
What would US Postal Service look like if it started today – with FedEx and the internet already well-established ?
Three ideas that immediately come to mind:
- More sub-stations within other existing businesses.
- Email/IM/voice mail notification of letter/package arrival.
- Scheduled home pick-up.
- Co-op business structure.
How would you change the USPS?