The U.S. Postal Service will stop delivering mail on Saturdays starting Aug. 1, but political mail consultants say the change won't impact their mail programs this fall. Off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey will give direct mail firms the first taste of the Postal Service's weekendless workweek. No Saturday mail means four or five days will be gone from the final push schedules of most mail programs come the fall. “I think overall it reduces the amount of mailable days, and it’s something the industry was expecting to happen at some point,” says Achim Bergmann, partner at Bergmann Zwerdling Direct. “It just means we’ll have to be more strategic on drop dates.” Staying on top of delivery dates and approving mail on time will be the best way to avert disaster, says Bergmann, and eye-catching mail pieces with stronger visuals are needed to stand out now that more mail will be flowing in on the same days. Mail programs might also move up a few days to account for the change. Andrew Kennedy, principal at Kennedy Communications, doesn’t think mail firms will be victimized overtly by the change, though he'll miss the luxury of a mail piece sent out the Friday before Election Day hitting mailboxes that Saturday.
“There are going to be those moments when you would’ve liked to have those Saturday dates for mail to land,” says Kennedy. Last cycle, the Postal Service stopped letting direct mailers check in mail on Saturdays, so from a practical standpoint there shouldn't be much change required from direct mail firms in 2013, according to Dan Hazelwood, creative director at Targeted Creative. The Postal Service will still process mail over the weekend, so properly performed Friday drops should still hit on Monday. Bergmann says on a rare occasion working voters might be missed with a mailer they would’ve seen on the weekend. But Hazelwood says the direct mail demographic is largely unaffected—married people and homeowners still value mail while singles under 35 continue to move away from it. Direct mail firms also compete with less mail than they used to; even retailers send less mail promoting their products.
“The truth of the matter is, as much as mail as a part of American life has changed dramatically given the Internet, I think political mail has stayed consistent and is actually more visible than it used to be,” Bergmann says. The biggest worry for Hazelwood is where the Postal Service and the mail industry will be in 10 years. In fiscal year 2012, USPS reported a net loss of $15.9 billion—three times fiscal year 2011’s $5.1 billion loss. The Postal Service projects this year’s loss at $7.6 billion.
Hazelwood says the agency needs to put more competent, dynamic leaders in place to avert disaster—despite the savings ending Saturday mail provides. USPS estimates it will save some $2 billion a year.
“This is a sad story about the Postal Service and a failure to innovate,” he says. “That organization needs to be taken over with a totally new philosophy.”Follow @DaveNyczepir