For you marketers, the latest USPS Revenues, Pieces and Weights was just released. It is a good indicator of the health of the economy, but also reveals just how we count on the post office in a different way than what Ben Franklin had in mind.
First off, the USPS jiggles their year-end to March 31, so the numbers I show you here have been adjusted to report a full normal calendar year, January – December, 2018 and 2017.
First Class mail continues its slow descent, losing 4% of its volume over the past 12 months. That is, we mailed 2.2 billion less pieces. The big drop is again in business and financial mailings, as more and more consumers opt for email statements and invoices. Anyway, First Class mail shrank by 119,000,000 pounds, or nearly 60,000 tons.
Marketing Mail, otherwise known as Standard, grew by 258,000,000 pieces. The percentage growth is negligible, which is mind-boggling, but considering the minimal, steady slide over the last few years, this is a big deal. Direct marketers put more money into mail. Remarkably, piece-weights are down. Down 133,000 tons in fact. Hard to grasp? It is a lot. Let me remind you, the USS Ronald Reagan only weighs 103,000 tons.
Periodicals, fell 7% year over year, representing 363,000,000 fewer magazines and newspapers. Put into terms you may relate to, that’s equivalent to 30 million monthly subscriptions, cancelled. While page counts are hard to calculate, the average weight of a single magazine shrank by 0.178 ounces, too.
The rising success in postal delivery however is packages and competitive parcel services. Overall, thanks to Internet, catalog and direct mail order, the USPS volume grew 8% in 2018, by 477,000,000 pieces, or just over 1 billion pounds. That’s 530,000 tons, or for you navy folks: five USS Ronald Reagans.
We are always pointing to the USPS as a struggling giant. But it is a terrific barometer and thermometer for consumer behavior. Why? Because it is the only organ in the U.S. that still takes the pulse of over 150 million business and consumer addresses every day. It does not sample and extrapolate. It measures the whole body of the nation.
Understanding that, we see the real change in ourselves: we write fewer letters and cards to one another, and prefer to get our important mail electronically: email and website. We also shun the retail experience in favor of direct order over the Internet, and through catalog and direct mail. Lastly, we are steadily running away from browsing the printed page for news. Instead, we go to a screen or tablet. Still Benjamin Franklin watches.
Thanks for reading! If you would like to see the entire USPS report for October-December 2018, check it out here: Revenues, Pieces and Weights.