• on Jul 14th, 2014 in Pricing & Rates | 5 comments

    No one can accuse the U.S. Postal Service of following the pack. It not only dismissed the strategy of pricing packages based on size as well as weight (referred to as dim weight pricing); it actually plans to lower prices for a good portion of its flagship Priority Mail products.

    Few were surprised when UPS recently followed rival FedEx’s lead and announced it would price parcels based primarily on how much space they take up during transport. The new pricing scheme is expected to generate significant revenue for the two integrators. Industry observers were curious to see if the Postal Service would jump on the dim weight bandwagon, or if the agency saw a better opportunity in trying to poach customers with its simpler pricing scheme. Few predicted the Postal Service would lower prices.

    Not all Priority Mail prices are going down, however. Retail prices on Priority Mail flat-rate boxes will in fact increase by 1.7 percent on average, if the Postal Regulatory Commission approves the Postal Service plan. For example, the small flat-rate box would increase 35 cents to $5.95 on September 7, if approved.

    Still, small mailers could save by printing their own labels either from the Postal Service’s Click-N-Ship online offering, or from PC Postage products, permit imprints, or digital mailing systems. Using an online option moves customers into Commercial Base pricing, where they will get lower prices, on average, under the Postal Service proposal. The biggest price cuts – about 2.3 percent on average – would come in Commercial Plus prices, which require a commitment of 50,000 pieces in a year.

    The Postal Service’s Priority Mail has seen solid growth over the past 3 years (25 percent in revenue). But postal officials have indicated they want to capture more business shippers and this price cut is one initiative meant to attract those commercial customers. Some observers think that, even without the proposed price break, the Postal Service would have won customers from UPS and FedEx once their prices increased. But others suggest the reduced rates might entice even more business customers to try the Postal Service.

    Should the Postal Service lower its Priority Mail prices, keep them the same, or raise them slightly given an expected migration from UPS and FedEx? 

  • on Jan 17th, 2011 in Strategy & Public Policy, Uncategorized | 10 comments
    Coopetition, is a buzzword cropping up in many business publications these days. Basically, it means that competing firms look for ways to cooperate with each other, rather than compete head-to-head for business. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service, the United Parcel Service (UPS) now has a program that allows customers of participating retailers to return merchandise by dropping it in any U.S. Postal Service mailbox, or at any post office. The program features a special label that makes the service possible. After a return package is dropped off at a Postal Service location, a UPS driver picks it up and the UPS ground network transports it back to the retailer. UPS, which has its main air hub in Louisville, KY, began testing the service last year with a few retailers and is expanding it because of “positive response.” Some say this is an example of successful coopetition. There are a number of other current partnership programs with competitors. The Postal Service acts as a “last mile” partner for both UPS and FedEx, handling thousands of deliveries. Federal Express performs similar duties for the Postal Service providing air service for Postal Service parcels domestically as well as providing international logistics for the Postal Service’s Global Express Guaranteed service. In certain conditions, coopetition can be a “win-win-win”; helping not only the two businesses, but also the consumer. Do you think these partnerships benefit the public through greater efficiencies or hurt the competitive level? Let us know what you think! This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Jul 5th, 2010 in Labor | 37 comments
    One area identified in the Postal Service’s action for the future is to increase workforce flexibility. A larger, part-time work force would give postal management the flexibility to increase or decrease employees depending on mail volume. Although this change is not as drastic as closing postal facilities or switching to 5-day delivery, it raises questions about what a part-time postal workforce would look like. The Postal Service has fewer part-time employees than any other international postal operation. Currently only 13 percent of its workforce is part-time. Meanwhile, Deutsche Post employs a 40 percent part-time staff, while the United Kingdom’s Royal Mail employs 22 percent. Local competitors also have a higher percentage of part-time employees. For example, UPS employs a 53 percent part-time workforce and FedEx remains around 40 percent. Generally speaking, the Postal Service is behind the average American private sector firm, which employs a 30 percent part-time labor workforce.

    Is there a downside to employing a larger part-time workforce? Critics argue that part-time employees are less loyal to their employers, and as a result, they increase ”quasi-fixed” costs associated with recruiting, training, and oversight. However, recent findings call these assertions into question. A study in the Annual Review of Sociology found that part-time employees are just as likely as full-time employees to view their jobs as a “central life activity” and to be “equally committed to their organizations.” Moreover, the study also mentioned that employees’ demand for part-time jobs has increased since the 1980s, as the American workforce has increasingly desired job flexibility. Increasing the number of part-time postal employees would make the Postal Service more flexible in the face of declining mail volumes, seasonal fluctuations, and market volatility. For more information visit Newsweek story on part time workers. UPS info blog. A look at FedEx labor unrest. What do you think about the Postal Service’s idea to increase its part-time workforce? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).