The USPS has published its quarterly Revenues, Pieces and Weights report (RPW) and some trends for both optimists and pessimists will start you thinking. First off, understand that the post office doesn’t observe the normal calendar year, so the numbers shown here are normalized to January-December.
Revenues for the year, up 3.3%
First Class Mail, which includes all the bank statements and financial releases, plus personal letters and cards saw a 2.7% increase in revenues. Pretty good, considering that the class took a 5% increase in price.
Standard Mail which is entirely promotional and non profit mail boomed 5.5%. If nothing else, this is an indicator that the market was ready to invest in Direct Mail.
Periodicals revenues were flat, indicating the continued effect of online access to reading material. Parcels were down as a result of a drop in media and library mail.
The big win for the USPS was its ability to bag an increase in pricing without a significant drop in pieces. In 2014 the post office delivered 152 billion pieces of mail, magazines and parcels, down a billion… but what’s a billion? Fundamentally, piece count is the physical evidence: choosing to mail hard copy versus an alternative, such as email.
Drilling in to the numbers, Standard Mail grew a billion pieces, or 1.7%. As can be expected, First Class dipped 1.5 billion. Interesting, in Q4, which includes Christmas, volumes were up in all FCM categories except for single cards and letters. Despite our best hopes, the Christmas season didn’t materialize on the kitchen tables of America as stacks of holiday greetings mail.
The most worrisome segment of the pieces category is Periodicals, which illustrate the rapid decline of magazine mail, the real victim of web communications today. Periodicals dropped 4.7%.
Tonnage down 3.2%
While pieces are down slightly, the total weight hauled took a big dip: 500 million pounds or 250,000 tons. For the record, the USS H.W. Bush Super Carrier weighs 100,000 tons. Can you imagine losing 2-1/2 aircraft carriers in the mail?
But to the point, while mailers only backed off mailing pieces by 0.7%, they were much more careful to lower the weight of each package. So the USPS still walked as many routes as last year, but their trucks didn’t use as much gas.
The drill down shows that Standard Mailers lowered their kit weights by 4.4% to 1.59 ounces on average. Given that the postage is the same for up to 3-plus ounces, it is likely that printing costs drove down the weights. That, and fewer Flat-sized kits.
Periodicals dropped 1%, which translates to fewer page counts, and less advertising. Parcels and packages were down to 2-1/4 pounds.
Only First Class mailers upped their weights.
The Cost of A Stamp Up 4.1%
Standard Mailers took a 4.2% increase and grew their volumes 1.2%. This is a clear indication that Direct Mail is enjoying the effect of its financial results in the market place.
Only Packages saw a price decrease, which spelled a slight increase in volume.
We’ll see how the postage increase affects volumes and revenues after April, 2015. Mean time, it’s a safe bet that Direct Mail is headed in the right direction, and may ultimately be the driving force in USPS revenue stability going forward.
Kudos to the USPS navigating its way through these changing times. If you would like to see the RPWs they are available here… http://about.usps.com/who-we-are/financials/welcome.htm
If you have a question, comment or observation about this report, let me know!