The Washington Post
April 15, 2012
For 33 years, my business — Papa Jazz Record Shoppe in Columbia, S.C. — has been a cornerstone of the trendy Five Points shopping area of our capital city. As a small, independent retail establishment, we have weathered the ups and downs of the economy and fought to establish our niche in the record market.
Our single brick and mortar location, with seven full-time employees, has grown to not only serve our university community but to also supply music to regional, national and global markets. By adapting to the times, we have continued our success locally and online with e-commerce channels, such as eBay and Amazon, now accounting for upwards of 15 to 20 percent of our business.
But the success of our business model is now being threatened by proposals to end the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) Saturday public operations, and possibly close many rural post offices. Taking orders for our products online is only part of our e-commerce success. The USPS is the other essential part.
Shipping via USPS provides us a huge competitive edge and enables us to get products out to customers six days a week in a very cost-effective manner. Once someone places and pays for an order, we ship it out immediately. If someone places an order late Friday, the product will still ship on Saturday.
If Saturday shipping via USPS is no longer an option, an order that was paid for on Friday won’t go out until Monday. This takes away a huge part of what sets us apart from our competitors who mainly ship Monday through Friday. Since the late 1990s, Internet sales have kept us profitable during turbulent economic times. Our commitment and ability to ship on Saturdays has been a contributing factor.
In addition, USPS’s comparatively inexpensive rates have traditionally kept costs down for Papa Jazz. If we are forced to use another shipping service, such as UPS or FedEx, on Saturdays, our shipping costs will go up significantly, cutting even more into our narrow profit margin or increasing costs to our customers. The latter will result in many of our customers no longer doing business with us online. From experience, we know the tipping point for goods and shipping costs after which customer sales will drop off. With the current USPS rate structure, and even with a slight increase, if necessary, our shipping costs are in the acceptable range for customers. The same cannot be said if we are forced to use UPS or FedEx.
But shipping to our customers is not our only concern. Many of the products we receive are sent to us via USPS. If our customer suppliers have to pay more to send us their products on a Saturday (often the only time people have for these matters), that will increase our purchasing costs. This extra cost must then be passed on to our customers, which will decrease our sales.
We are only one of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of small businesses, across the nation that would be losing out if Saturday USPS delivery were eliminated. It is imperative that Congress hear our voices either individually or through organizations such as the American Sustainable Business Council, a network of socially responsible companies. The decision to close the USPS on Saturdays would have serious financial consequences for my small business and many, many more.