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November 24, 2012

USPS braces for frenzy of Cyber Monday

By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star

---- — Black Friday brings its own special brand of madness to malls and big retailers. But there’s another kind of madness looming at the end of this weekend: Cyber Monday.

That’s when many online retailers offer their best deals of the season, and it’s a huge day for those retailers and for delivery companies, such as the U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel and FedEx.

The Postal Service said in a press release Friday that it expects Cyber Monday 2012 to be the biggest online spending day ever, pumping a record 130 million packages into its pipeline.

It needs the business.

The agency is no longer subsidized by the federal government and lost nearly $16 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. About $5 billion of the loss came from a decline in mail services. And it defaulted on payments to a retiree healthcare fund.

The new fiscal year has gotten off to a better start. First, there was the hugely profligate presidential election.

A Postal Service representative told the online publication “PrintWeek” that, as of the end of October, political mail – not including election mail, such as ballots and registration forms – had already generated $50 million more than the $337 million the agency earned from such mail 2010.

And now there’s Cyber Monday.

According to the National Retail Federation, 51.8 percent of Americans will buy something online Monday. That must sound like Santa’s sleigh bells to Postal Service, which is hoping that retailers will take advantage of several new delivery options to make this its best holiday season ever.

“The holiday season is our Super Bowl, with 365 million packages expected to be delivered,” said Gary Reblin, a vice president for the agency.

The trade group is also predicting that Internet holiday sales will grow 12 percent this year to nearly $100 billion. It says that means each person will do more than a third of his or her shopping on the Web.

We’re becoming an Internet-shopping nation, and that’s creating a revolution in how goods are marketed, shipped and sold. That’s not good news for bricks-and-mortar stores, but it’s a windfall for delivery companies. The U.S. Postal Service, for one, needs all the help it can get.

What does that mean locally? For one thing, prosperity probably would ease the pressure on the Postal Service to close post offices and cut back on deliveries, especially in rural areas that depend on it. For another, it might limit the size of a potential taxpayer bailout for the ailing agency.

RICHARD WHITBY is a staff writer for The Daily Star. Contact him at