Postal Service to launch new clothing line in 2014

February 19, 2013
(Matthew Putney/Reuters)
(Matthew Putney — Reuters)

 

First the end of Saturday mail, now a new clothing line. The U.S. Postal Service is taking unprecedented steps to make itself relevant and profitable these days.

The cash-strapped agency announced plans on Tuesday to launch a new line of all-weather apparel and accessories sometime next year.

Move over, upscale North Face. Or should it be the grittier Carhartt brand that worries?

The Postal Service chose “Rain Heat & Snow” as its own brand name, alluding to its unofficial motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Only men’s apparel and accessories will be available initially, but the agency plans to add a women’s line in the future, it said Tuesday.

The Postal Service inked a licensing agreement with Cleveland-based Wahconah Group, Inc. to produce the new line, which will include jackets, headgear, footwear and clothing that allows integration of modern technology devices such as iPods, according to agency spokesman Roy Betts.

“This agreement will put the Postal Service on the cutting edge of functional fashion,” agency licensing manager Steven Mills said in a statement. “The main focus will be to produce Rain Heat & Snow apparel and accessories using technology to create ‘smart apparel’ — also known as wearable electronics.”

Betts said the Postal Service plans to sell its apparel and accessories in premium department stores and specialty stores, but not at post offices. He said the agency plans to make the products available in 2014.

The Postal Service decided to launch a clothing line as a way to promote and strengthen its brand, as well as to generate money, according to Betts.

The licensing agreement allows the Postal Service to collect royalty fees for its new product line without investing money to produce the gear, Betts said.

“We’re looking at many different approaches to generate revenue and become more innovative in the marketplace,” Betts said. “This is one effort among many that the Postal Service is undertaking to respond to the changing dynamics of the marketplace.”

The agency reported a $1.3 billion loss during the first quarter, but its numbers were severely hampered by a congressional mandate that cost about $1.4 billion during that period.

In 2006, Congress passed a statute requiring the Postal Service to pre-pay for 75 years worth of retiree benefits within 10 years. No other federal agency is forced to make such an investment.

The Postal Service would have recorded a $100 million profit during the first quarter if not for that mandate, according to the figures in the agency’s financial report.

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe announced on Feb. 6 that the Postal Service would end Saturday mail delivery starting in August in an effort to deal with its financial troubles, which have been ongoing for several years now.

The Postal Service introduced a limited retail line in the 1980s that included items such as T-shirts, mugs and neckties, all sold exclusively in post offices. Betts said the agency discontinued those products after lobbyists complained to Congress that the organization was directly competing with private businesses and that it was not established to sell merchandise.

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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Eric Yoder | February 19, 2013