Postal Webcast Recap: Early Holiday Start and Election Caps Off 2020

October 7, 2020

The Postal Service’s new fiscal year began October 1, closing the books on a series of events that couldn’t be predicted. And the uncertainty experienced through 2020’s four pandemic-related phases won’t go away entirely through the fall and winter.

More than 150 members of the postal industry joined Quad’s Postal Solutions team on Thursday, October 1 for the second in our series of webcasts providing clarity during an unforgettable postal industry year that won’t get any less interesting. We discussed delivery performance related to COVID-19, the reality of PMG Louis DeJoy’s changes and how the Postal Service will handle volume during the upcoming busy season.

USPS guarded on pandemic effects

In January, USPS delivery was almost too fast for our customers. Brands need to staff call centers and give deadlines for response based on in-home dates. Maureen Noe, Quad’s Senior Manager of Delivery Tracking, shared that 60% of January mail was delivered within 48 hours of Quad dropping it off at USPS facilities.

Everything changed in mid-March — only it wasn’t always clear why. The USPS communicates openly about how wildfires and hurricanes slow its delivery performance. But customers were in the dark when COVID-19 and social unrest challenged certain facilities, affecting service.

Tracking data showed us that hundreds of pallets sat unprocessed in one location. In-home dates for mail we seeded were generally later than expected.

Moving forward, we hope USPS officials collaborate with their biggest mailing partners so we can act on contingency plans to best serve our customers.

PMG implements and pauses cost-control measures

Before Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took office, the OIG made it clear that costs were out of control. He implemented necessary changes to cut overtime, transportation and other expenses.

But the timing was difficult. Consumers turned to ecommerce for essentials while COVID-19 left the Postal Service short-staffed. And the contentious November election will hinge on a record number of vote-by-mail ballots. Mr. DeJoy paused sweeping initiatives — for now.

We agree that USPS expenses need a hard look. Leadership will face tough decisions. Our hope is again that they will work closely with their customers in advance. Leaked memos after the fact didn’t help anyone in mid-July.

Election mail already flowing

Even if everyone in the country sent their vote-by-mail ballots on a single day, it would only equal a small percentage of that day’s postal volume. Early ballots in most states are already coming in, spreading out the influx.

We’re confident election mail will only be a blip that won’t overwhelm USPS resources. Waves of uncertainty through the four phases of 2020 — pre-pandemic, early-pandemic adjustments, cost-cutting changes, pausing changes — have conditioned us to prepare for worst-case scenarios. But it’s some comfort that with overall volume down dramatically over 2019, the election will be efficient. And it won’t hurt in-home dates for other mail.

2020 holiday season starts in October

Imagine industry experts writing last January that retailers would want to avoid crowds on Black Friday. That they’d dread a month of nearly constant foot traffic. Now in October, that’s the pragmatic, smart approach to the holiday season.

In this highly unusual year, Amazon rescheduled summer’s Prime Day for October 13-14. Target and Walmart plan to compete with it, making for a very early start to annual holiday sales. The busiest time for marketing mail begins immediately. Ecommerce should reach record highs. Both factors will benefit a prepared Postal Service as we head into 2021.

Watch an on-demand recording of this webcast, or see our first installment on Government Affairs. USPS Acting Vice President of Sales Sharon Owens joins Quad for our final session. Register here:

October 15 – What to Expect When You’re Budgeting: USPS Pricing Outlook for 2021