USPS extends flat-rate range to boost competitive services

The United States Postal Service is extending its flat-rate shipping services from next year, as it seeks to compete in the express and priority mail sectors. The USPS can make changes to its competitive products each January, and this year will see prices for its Priority Mail rising by 3.5% and its other Shipping Services products by 3.6%.

These price increases come as USPS rivals FedEx are planning a 3.9% increase in its rates in 2011 and UPS has announced a 4.9% increase for its prices next year.

Battling with financial difficulties and forced into the law courts to attempt to raise postal rates in its protected services, the USPS is hoping a greater range of its express and priority mail services will help it make the most of its competitive products.

The move is part of the Postal Service’s recovery plan, as put forward on March 2.

For its Priority Mail services, new types of flat-rate envelopes are to be added to the USPS portfolio, along with a new Critical Mail service for time-sensitive documents.

A legal-size envelope, padded envelope, gift card envelope, window envelope and small envelope are being added to the flat-rate Priority Mail range, with all options priced at $4.95.

On the express side, the USPS Express Mail flat-rate envelope will see its price unchanged at $18.30, while a new legal-sized Express Mail flat-rate envelope is introduced at the same price.

Critical Mail will be offered for Commercial Plus customers, offering Priority Mail with First Class service to include tracking and free delivery confirmation. Priced at $3.50 for letters and $4.25 for larger, flat-size pieces, the USPS will also offer the option of insuring items and using signature confirmation within Critical Mail.

The USPS is also launching a special rate for items sent within a region of the country, using USPS-supplied packaging in two sizes for commercial customers. The Priority Mail Regional Rate Box offers a flat rate for a .21 cubic feet box of up to 15 pounds, and for a .41 cubic feet box up to 20 pounds.

Paul Vogel, president, Mailing and Shipping Services, said: “The Postal Service continues to offer the best combination of value and shipping solutions in the market. These new products will provide simple solutions to a dynamic marketplace.”

Other extended services will include the USPS Hold For Pickup service, which will take in Priority Mail and First-Class Mail commercial parcels in 2011, rather than just Express Mail. The service means recipients can have items delivered to their local Post Office, rather than their doorstep.

The USPS is also intending to push its Post Office Box services in the 49 retail Post Offices that are in areas where significant competition exists, and so are also classed as competitive products.

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