I feel very fortunate to have been operating an internet business during this last year. Statewide health directives haven't affected our ability to operate like many brick-and-mortar businesses. We've had our supply hiccups and some procedural changes, but nothing major has hit us. Until now. One issue has been plaguing us: shipping delays.
We work very hard to process orders quickly, usually the same or next business day. We want you to get that tracking ASAP! But the extreme delays at USPS are starting to affect our business.
Quite frankly, we're between a rock and a hard place. Other options like FedEx and UPS just aren't viable for us. Shipping a deodorant through one of these carriers costs more than the deodorant itself. First Class Mail has been the option we go to for small orders, with a typical 2-4 day transit time. We use Priority Mail for packages over 1 lb, taking advantage of flat rate and region rate boxes. Over the last 13 years it's been 95% reliable and allows us to get packages to their destination in 2-3 days. It's also allowed us to remain an independent business, not reliant upon Amazon and other corporate retailers.
In November and December, transit times really started to slow down. And understandably so -- there was a huge volume of holiday packages to deliver. But this meant we couldn't do our regular December promotions because we couldn't guarantee delivery in time for Christmas. We ended up with a 50% decrease in sales for December over the previous year. Ouch.
I thought that once the holiday mail was caught up we'd be in the clear. Not so. February brought us more delays, with packages disappearing or taking 3 weeks in transit. The ice storms in the midwest and the south slowed things down as flights were grounded and packages couldn't move. But over 13 years, we've seen ice storms and other natural disasters and packages haven't been delayed as severely as they have been.
USPS has blamed the delays on COVID, but it's a more complicated issue. A limited transportation grid, strict overtime rules, and management changes have also contributed, from what I've read. Some may argue that the Post Office should be privatized, and I'm not getting in to that discussion. (Not trying to get political here!) The harsh reality is that no private agencies have stepped to the plate to replace the post office, and businesses like ours are suffering.
Fast shipping has been a core value we've built this business on. To see packages in transit for three weeks is disheartening and frustrating for me and customers alike. It's not sustainable for us to continue to see these delays. Fortunately I'm starting to see better transit times overall since mid-February and I hope this trend continues.
There is hope
Currently several changes are in the works to support this critical infrastructure. First, a bill in the House has been introduced that would restructure how the Post Office is funded and set service benchmarks they would have to adhere to. Second, new appointees to the Board of Governors have been nominated. The Board of Governors acts as a board of directors for the post office to set policies. The Postmaster General has also introduced a 10-year plan to turn the agency around. Hopefully these changes pass and will help us see our packages being delivered in a timely manner again -- along with our bills, prescriptions, and paychecks.
Thank you to everyone for your support during these difficult times -- I know everyone's dealing with their own unique challenges during this time. I know that we're not the only business affected by this (and other) issues. Know that we remain dedicated to making the products you've relied on for years and getting them to you as fast as we can. We will continue to push forward with new products and sales in the months to come in the hopes that the situation improves.