In 1970, the Postal Service delivered fewer than 85 billion pieces of mail. Thirty years later, mail volume had more than doubled to nearly 208 billion pieces of mail — average growth of about 3 percent per year. The Postal Service relied upon this dependable growth in mail volume to finance the expansion of its network. The traditional business model worked.
Then, mail volume entered the new century. Each year from 2000 through 2003, total mail volume decreased. In 2005, the volume of Standard Mail surpassed the volume of the Postal Service’s flagship product First-Class Mail for the first time, with First-Class Mail volume actually falling below its 1995 level. Total mail volume growth averaged an anemic 0.3 percent per year from 2000 through 2007, and when the Postal Service’s 2008 fiscal year ended on September 30, volume had declined in nearly all categories. The total decline in 2008 was 4.5 percent to 202.7 billion pieces. The Postal Service is forecasting continued volume decline to 194.5 billion pieces in 2009.
Do these recent trends portend a fundamental change to mail volumes? Or are they mostly a symptom of the current adverse economic conditions? What are the long-term consequences of electronic substitution? How have other factors such as value of competitors’ products, new technologies, and complementary services affected mail volumes?
The Postal Service touches everyone, everywhere, nearly every day and is the cornerstone of the $1.2 trillion mailing industry. The Postal Service’s traditional business model is threatened. But, with every threat, comes opportunity. Which products and services may rebound and grow?