USPS closures would crush small shoemaker in competition with Amazon, Zappos

April 15, 2012

Our companies design, develop, manufacture, market and sell compact footwear across the world, and we use the U.S. Postal Service every day to provide all of our domestic shipping to our online customers. So we rely on the postal service to help meet our customers’ needs as well as maintain our margins for shipping our goods.

Learning to maneuver and getting the best rates for the type of shipment was all part of the learning curve, and we found that the USPS offers the best price of all the shippers to move products like ours. From our systems we are able to purchase postage and print labels online and we are also able to get tracking information.

Still, the best part about the USPS is the fact that it delivers items on Saturday. Using the USPS to ship allows us to have an advantage with our customers giving them service on Saturday and allowing them to receive their goods earlier than if we were to use the UPS or FedEx model of shipping. What’s more, when you are doing priority shipments, the boxes are free, which saves us additional money.

There are some negatives, though, in that if you are not sending priority, the USPS does not pick up your boxes and you have to physically take packages to the post office. So while it is great that we can print the label online we still have to go to a location to drop off a package.

Currently, we do utilize UPS and FedEx for our wholesale accounts which we ship multiple units and we use FedEx for all of our overseas shipments as they have the best overnight service to other countries.

While we would like to continue working as much as possible with the postal service, we would be forced to adapt if the recently proposed changes are put into place. If the Saturday service is discontinued, for instance, we would have to adjust our time tables for deliveries to our customers. While, of course, this is not something that would be detrimental to our operations, it would affect our business model and we would have to adapt the time for delivery.

More importantly, an increase in rates would go directly to affect our profitability. We are constantly looking for ways to cut costs and this would just increase them, though I hope not to the point where we would have to start looking at the alternative.

The real issue is that we are competing with companies like Zappos and Amazon that ship so many items they get the best rates and can offer free shipping and absorb the loss as an operating cost. As a small business owner, I do not have that luxury and I actually have to charge for shipping and my customers never want to pay shipping. An increase in pricing would make it even more difficult to compete with the big guys out there.

Jenifer Caplan is president of Footzyrolls, which develops and manufactures foldable shoes.

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