USPS Expects Heavy Holiday Volume, Issues Temporary Rate Increases, Shipping Deadlines

Industry companies who use the United States Postal Service (USPS) to ship customer orders should be prepared for delays during the upcoming peak mailing season—the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day—when the USPS is expecting to deliver more than 12 billion letters, cards and packages. While volume may fall short of the 2020 holiday season’s record-setting 13 billion pieces of mail, it is still a tremendous challenge for postal workers to manage.

The crunch is expected to start the week of December 6 with the week of December 13-18 anticipated to be the busiest for mailing, shipping and delivery. During that week alone, the Postal Service predicts that nearly 2.3 billion pieces of First-Class Mail, including greeting cards and packages, will be processed and delivered.

The holidays’ high mail volumes and related delays come at a time when companies are already contending with supply-chain related bottlenecks and their effects, so for some promo companies, this aligns with what they are already communicating to their clients.

“One proactive approach we took was an email I wrote to all of our clients outlining the supply chain and shipping challenges and encouraging them to order early so they get the products they want and don’t miss their holiday gifts,” says Tom Goos, MAS, president of Kirkland, Washington-based distributor Image Source. “Along with that, our account executive teams have been proactively reaching out to each of their clients communicating that we need to get orders in so we don’t get delays in production and shipping. The shipping challenges have not been a significant issue yet, but they will be in the next few weeks as the consumer demand peaks for the holidays. Current supply chain challenges for inventory and decoration are still overshadowing shipping. For example, most embroidery companies have a six-week production time right now. This already misses the holiday delivery timeframe.”

To help manage its volume, the Postal Service will expand Sunday delivery, beginning November 28, to locations with high package volume. USPS already delivers packages on Sundays in most major cities and expects to deliver more than 9.7 million packages each Sunday throughout the holiday season. Mail carriers will also deliver packages for an additional fee on Christmas Day in select locations.

Also, the USPS has leased 7.5 million square feet of additional space across more than 40 annexes to handle the increase in the number of packages being mailed and is currently hiring more than 40,000 seasonal positions to help process and deliver mail. Since April, the Postal Service has installed 92 of 112 new package sorting machines, part of $40 billion in planned investments over 10 years. Additionally, more than 50 machines that can sort large packages are expected to be up and running prior to December. The new machinery gives the Postal Service the capacity to process an additional 4.5 million packages each day.

Along with the crush of heavy mail volume, prices are rising. As of August 29, the cost of a Forever stamp increased to 58 cents from 55 cents. There are also temporary price increases in place through 12:01 am, CT, December 26, on all retail and commercial domestic competitive parcels for some shipping products, which also includes military shipping—Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, First-Class Package Service, Parcel Select, USPS Retail Ground and Parcel Return Service. International products are unaffected. The USPS says that these temporary rate increases will cover extra costs in anticipation of peak-season volume surges similar to levels experienced in 2020.

The temporary pricing increases for Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, Parcel Select Ground and USPS Retail Ground and First-Class Package Service are:

  • Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Boxes and Envelopes: 75 cents
  • Zones 1-4, 0-10 pounds: 25 cents
  • Zones 5-9, 0-10 pounds: 75 cents
  • Zones 1-4, 11-20 pounds: $1.50
  • Zones 5-9, 11-20 pounds: $3
  • Zones 1-4, 21-70 pounds: $2.50
  • Zones 5-9, 21-70 pounds: $5
  • First-Class Package Service: 30 cents

The USPS has also recommended mailing and shipping deadlines for expected delivery by December 25:

December 9 — APO/FPO/DPO (all ZIP Codes) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail
December 15 — USPS Retail Ground service
December 16 — APO/FPO/DPO (except ZIP Code 093) USPS Priority Mail Express Military service
December 17 — First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards)
December 17 — First-Class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)
December 17 — Priority Mail and First-Class Mail, Hawaii to/from mainland
December 18 — Priority Mail service
December 18 — First-Class Mail, Alaska to/from Continental U.S.
December 18 — Priority Mail, Alaska to/from Continental U.S.
December 21 — Priority Mail Express, Alaska to/from Continental U.S.
December 21 — Priority Mail Express, Hawaii to/from mainland
December 23 — Priority Mail Express* service

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