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Proposed postal cuts worry businesses

Longer wait for mail would force changes

Tasha Bracken (right) says proposed cuts in postal service could make things more difficult for her West Newton event planning business. Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Last week, Tasha Bracken mailed out 140 invitations to a wedding planned for January. That’s typical for Bracken, owner of Simple Details Events, a party planning company based in West Newton.

But Bracken sends invitations through the mail. If the US Postal Service goes through with proposed cuts, it will take longer to get them into the right hands, and her business could become more complicated. Guests will be slower to respond, and events will become tougher to plan. Without knowing just how long mail delays might be, Bracken figures she will have to start sending invitations out two weeks earlier.


That will make the job more difficult, she said, “especially for planning last-minute events. Weddings and other parties have to be on our radar much sooner.’’

From big retail companies that mail out millions of catalogs a year to small firms sending out hundreds of wedding invitations, some businesses still rely heavily on the US mail. The Postal Service has proposed changes that include delivery of first-class mail within the continental United States in two to three days instead of one, as it seeks $20 billion in operating cost reductions by 2015.

According to the postal service website, 171 billion pieces of mail were processed in 2010, down from a peak of 213 billion in 2006 - and the numbers are likely to keep falling as people continue to correspond and shop online, and to use alternative services. Last year, revenue declined nearly $1 billion from $68 billion in 2009.

Dennis Tarmey, spokesman for the Greater Boston postal district, said more businesses are concerned about whether their local post offices will be closed than they are about delivery delays. “It doesn’t necessarily mean the mail will be a day late,’’ he said. “If that does come to be, planning properly is the key there.’’


But there are some companies that rely on the speed of the US mail. The newspaper Boston Business Journal, which counts on next-day delivery to get its issues into the hands of subscribers, is actively exploring alternatives to deliver its 18,000 papers a week.

“We may have to have earlier deadlines, which in my opinion makes the paper less newsworthy, less relevant,’’ said publisher Chris McIntosh.

As for the post office’s competitors, Dan McMackin, spokesman for United Parcel Service Inc., wrote in an e-mail that changes could bring the shipping service more business. But he said UPS is more interested in keeping the post office in business. “We do compete with the USPS, but we also collaborate with them. They use us to fly some of their postal volume on our aircraft,’’ he said.

That sentiment was echoed by the shipping service FedEx Corp., which also works with the post office. “We believe that a healthy Postal Service, the largest postal operator in the world, is important to America,’’ Maury Donahue, FedEx communications manager, wrote in an e-mail.

Brian Gilmore, executive vice president of the trade group Associated Industries of Massachusetts, says businesses will adapt to slower mail delivery. “I’m so old, I remember when mail was delivered twice a day, and somehow we got over that,’’ he said.

That may be small comfort to Maine-based retailer L.L. Bean, which mails 250 million catalogs a year. Carolyn Beem, a company spokeswoman, said it needs to know exactly when catalogs will reach homes, so it can ramp up customer service. “If we are staffing to when we think those mailings hit, and there is a lag of three to five days, then we will have problems,’’ Beem said.


Christina Reinwald can be reached at christina.reinwald @globe.com.