The United States Postal Service closed out their fiscal year September 30. Never mind that the rest of the world goes by the annual calendar; the USPS wanted to beat the Christmas rush.
All in, the giant continues to perform well, within the confines of its quasi-government walls. I wish the rest of the Federal government departments spent as much time looking after their own performance and expenses as does the USPS.
But from the latest Revenues Pieces And Weights report, here are a few glimmers of surprise and excitement.
- It is a $69.6 billion dollar enterprise. In the Fortune 500 list, it hovers around #37, bigger than Target, and smaller than Procter & Gamble, both good neighbors. Like both of these companies, the USPS is an indicator of the USA’s pulse rate, though we will admit that it has slipped a bit.
- In 2017, the USPS revenues fell $1.8 billion. We know why. The Web, social media, email have all disenfranchised much of the USPS core business: first class mail and standard mail.
- First class mail continues to fall, $1.9 billion. Compared to last year, it delivered 2.5 billion fewer pieces of mail, a drop of 4.1%. Why? Because we receive our invoices, checks and statements electronically. We pay electronically too.
- Standard Mail, now called Marketing Mail, dropped 2.6 billion pieces, about 3.2%. Why? Last year was a mail-infused election year. It was distinguished by huge volumes of mail, from you know who, despite his predilection for Twitter.
- Overall, in its market dominant categories, that is, where it holds monopoly rights, revenues fell just over $4.0 billion.
- In the open competitive markets, ie., parcels and packages, revenues were UP over $2.2 billion, a 12.5% increase. Wow! Who knew?
The Web Taketh, And It Giveth
Here’s what I find impressive about the USPS. Despite the constant nagging of the digital futurists who want to write the Obit for the post office, it continues to hold its own. In an environment where Internet media are running rampant, the USPS has found a broad new niche: parcel delivery, a $20 billion business. If anyone should be worried, it will be the brick and mortar retail stores. Ask Sears. Ask Toys R Us. Ask Amazon.
American consumers have taken to the Web in all respects, but at day’s end, they need physical product delivery, and the USPS has risen to serving that need. After all, they were coming by our house anyway. Their two main competitors are UPS and Fedex, the latter using the postal carrier to make the “last mile” delivery.
Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Gloom of Night…
Postal carriers are the only American entity which visit 157,000,000 addresses every day. They delivered, all in, 149 billion items in 2017. They lifted 24 billion pounds, or 12 million tons, of physical product: mail, checks, magazines, parcels and yes, live bees and plants. The USPS has over 500,000 career employees and another 140,000 part-timers. While this may seem like a wildly aggressive employer, I put it to you that the postal employee actually delivers, a claim many can’t make for other government institutions.
So hats off to the USPS. It continues to fight the currents, and with astonishingly little help from its political friends, it far surpasses its governmental cousins.
Thanks for reading! If you would like to take a look at the USPS 10-K for 2017, click here!
4 thoughts on “Their Appointed Rounds”
Great article. Thanks.
Thank you Mike! We overlook our USPS, much like we take our other utilities for granted. The USPS does try harder.
I’ve got a lot of respect for the U.S. Postal Service. Delivering all that mail, every day, with few if any screw-ups. One branch of government that really works!
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Hey Peter! As it turns out, we have a fine post office in our town, and truly some exceptional folks who deliver mail every day. It’s hard not to like them. And the fact is, they do drop by every day, rain or shine. Pretty extraordinary what a 47-cent stamp can deliver. Thanks for writing!