Six months after its hiring by the National Association of Letter Carriers, the Lazard Group is out with recommendations for turning around the U.S. Postal Service. Not surprisingly, the Wall Street firm doesn’t see salvation in USPS management’s current strategy, which involves cutting lots of jobs, post offices and processing plants.
“Instead of focusing on shrinking its network and capabilities, the Postal Service needs an ambitious rethinking of its business model,” says the six-page “white paper.”
As an alternative, Lazard calls on the Postal Service to exploit its “last mile” delivery advantage to keep expanding its parcel business and offer new products and services. While recently announced initiatives like expansion of direct mail offerings to small business customers are a start, they “will require far more aggressive roll-out and many more such ideas to better leverage the Postal Service’s last-mile advantage,” according to the paper.
Along the same lines Lazard also urges the mail carrier to get into new lines of business. Although the paper doesn’t say whether changes to existing legal restrictions should be considered, it notes that the German postal service has privatized and moved into logistics and freight forwarding. Finally, Lazard suggests that–in the context of “shared sacrifice”–the Postal Service have more freedom to raise rates (you can be sure that’s gotten the attention of the mailing industry).
The paper was released Tuesday, the same day the Senate took up S. 1789, the first major piece of postal legislation to make it to the floor of either chamber since passage of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Lazard called the bill a “stop-gap measure that facilitates the Postal Service’s ‘shrink to survive’ plan.”
That critique brought a chilly response from Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., one of the measure’s sponsors. In a statement, Carper labeled the Lazard paper “thin on data, analysis or fresh ideas for modernizing the Postal Service.
“Rather, it’s thick with tired attacks on the Postal Service and mischaracterizations of the bill before the Senate . . . which, I might add, is the only bipartisan proposal in Congress that stands a chance of preventing a total collapse of the Postal Service in the coming months.”
The NALC announced the hiring of Lazard, as well as that of former presidential adviser Ron Bloom, in October.