EVANSDALE, Iowa --- The downsizing of the U.S. Postal Service could be a boon to competing shippers.
The USPS announced earlier this month a temporary moratorium on closing retail outlets and post offices from Nov. 19 through Jan. 2. The postal service, which delivers 40 percent of the world's mail, wants to focus on the busy holiday season and minimize logistical issues, according to a statement.
In some cases, the damage is already done.
The Evansdale Post Office, a branch of the Waterloo Post Office, was shuttered Oct. 21 to the dismay of the community. City and business leaders say the decision has been the talk of the town, and many residents have decided find other options to ship Christmas presents.
Dona Frickson, owner of Cobblestone Creek home decor and gift shop and president of the Evansdale Chamber of Commerce, said she's using United Parcel Service to handle all her business and personal shipping needs instead of the post office.
Since the Evansdale branch closed, Frickson said the post office has lost out on revenue from 18 packages, and dozens more to come. She typically pays about $10 to $30 each.
Frickson said the Evansdale Post Office was the best option for mailing packages because it was close and convenient.
"Now that convenience is gone ... It definitely hurts. We are going to UPS," Frickson said.
Driving to Waterloo and standing in long lines at the Waterloo Post Office isn't in the cards, she said.
Evansdale Mayor Chad Deutsch said he has heard similar stories from citizens. Many, including him, are choosing UPS, FedEx or DHL Express for their shipping needs.
The city appealed the branch closure to the USPS. No hearing date has been set.
Deutsch said some of the backlash against the postal service is frustration. The agency says it's closing offices to save money. That's not the case in Evansdale, the mayor said.
The USPS signed a five-year lease earlier this year reportedly worth $19,200 a year for the office at the Evans Crossing strip mall. The agency is still obligated to pay the lease. Plus, the clerk running the facility was transferred back to Waterloo, so there's no savings there.
The USPS previously declined to disclose operating expenses in Evansdale, but Watkins said revenue at the location dropped from $270,763 in 2008 to $253,050 last year. In fiscal year 2009, receipts were $244,212.
"This actually proves it's not a business decision. The holiday is the peak time of the season ... the most profitable time of the year," Deutsch said. "It's going to negatively impact revenue."
The USPS is whittling down a bloated network of 32,000 retail facilities, officials say. Several hundred post offices, branch outlets and processing centers either have been closed or are targeted for closure in Iowa.
The agency reported less than two weeks ago a $5.1 billion net loss for fiscal year 2011. It would have been $10.6 billion if Congress didn't postpone a mandated payment for pre-funded retiree health benefits.
"The financial crisis is significant. We need to take steps, as painful as they may be, to right the ship," said Richard Watkins, an agency spokesman.
Watkins said the postal service will do everything it can to retain and serve customers.
Mail volume will double on the peak delivery day, projected to be Dec. 19, Watkins said. On average, 563 million pieces of mail are processed each day.
"We're going to try to minimize the impact of cuts. We're gearing up with additional help in places we know there will be additional foot traffic," Watkins said.
He suggests people mail early and during non-peak hours to minimize wait times. The last day to mail parcel post packages, the most economical choice, and guarantee Christmas delivery is Dec. 15.
UPS expects to deliver more than 120 million packages worldwide, up 6 percent compared to last year, the week before Christmas. Dec. 22 is predicted to be the busiest day at 26 million, more than double the company's normal daily volume.
The company isn't trying to cash in on postal service reductions, but spokesman Dan McMackin said that will probably occur.
"Our marketing campaign will remain the same. ... Will it bring us more packages? It probably will," McMackin said.
Cedar Falls has two UPS Stores and Waterloo has one. A distribution warehouse is located in Cedar Falls.
FedEx and DHL expect Dec. 12 will be the peak volume day this year. An estimated 17 million packages will be shipped that day by FedEx, the company said. A DHL statement didn't provide figures.
Both companies predict growth as online purchasing continues to increase. FedEx has multiple retail outlets in the Cedar Valley.
"We'll make sure all customers know the availability and choices for (shipping) services," said Paula Bosler, FedEx spokeswoman.