Opinion: As ecommerce grows, US small businesses must rely on Postal Service
Updated: Mar 2
Published 8:23 a.m. ET Aug. 7, 2021
American consumers have grown accustomed to two important facets of ecommerce: shipping that is free and fast. The pandemic only accelerated this demand.
As owners of a small business based in Greenville, we see firsthand the high percentage of our revenues that go to packaging and shipping. The US Postal Service’s package delivery is critical to getting our products to the doors of our customers -- at an affordable price. With Congress debating landmark postal reform, it’s vital for small businesses that the legislation keeps mail and package deliveries together, six days a week.
The power of ecommerce has built a rich ecosystem of small- and medium-sized businesses like ours and our partners, empowering them to reach customers directly all over the country. At Hive & Honeybee, we are a woman- and veteran-owned business that serves as an online marketplace for customers to find and support other small businesses selling honeybee-inspired products. We also rely on smaller businesses like Shippo and Pirate Ship to streamline our shipping.
On top of high demand for fast and free shipping, more than 50% of Americans are highly concerned about packaging’s environmental impact. Our business offers sustainable packaging as part of our commitment to a greener world. We’ve shifted primarily to glass packaging, but that increases the shipping weight. The more expensive the shipping, the more likely a customer walks away from making a purchase. With a heavy package and high customer expectations, package prices have a real impact on our bottom line.
That’s why it’s concerning to hear that private carriers are lobbying Congress to raise Postal Service package prices through whatever means possible. Our small business is already taking a hit right now by offering a flat shipping rate far below the actual cost, but the US Postal Service typically offers the most affordable prices compared with other carriers. If the Postal Service’s prices were raised even further due to outside pressures, Americans could expect to see private carriers like UPS raise their costs as well.
I don’t know how our business would handle even higher package prices, but it’s safe to assume that higher package prices will lead to hiked prices throughout the economy.
Current postal legislation before Congress would officially codify the Postal Service’s status quo: keeping packages and mail delivered together. It would also enshrine six-day delivery into law.
Small businesses can’t afford to part with these crucial Postal Service benefits. We need Congress to move forward with the legislation as-is. Americans have come to expect our packages throughout the week, and small businesses partner with the Postal Service because they know it’s affordable and reliable.
For the future, there are certainly improvements that the U.S. Postal Service and Congress could consider to give a boost to small businesses like mine. Small businesses serve as the backbone of the American economy, but we need a leg-up to get from startup to full-fledged business. Policymakers could consider a program for new entrepreneurs to receive discounted shipping rates. The Postal Service also stands to improve its customer service options for small businesses.
Earlier this year the Postal Service laid out a 10-year plan that emphasizes the importance of ecommerce to America’s economic future. Online retailers like us were excited to see the Postal Service proactively laying out a strategy to continue delivering packages affordably and efficiently.
But the Postal Service also needs to be in the right financial position to carry this out. As written, a vote for congressional postal reform is a show of support for the Postal Service and the businesses and consumers who rely on it everyday.
Timothy Shirey and his wife, Leah, are co-owners of Hive & Honeybee, a small business based in Greenville.
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