Contrary to many recent news reports, the U.S. Postal Service has no plans to get into the clothing business, a USPS official confirmed today.
Even reputable news organizations botched the announcement last Tuesday that the Postal Service has entered into a licensing agreement allowing a clothing company to sell the “Rain Heat & Snow brand of apparel and accessory products.”
“Strapped for cash and obviously desperate, the United States Postal Service is launching a new line of ‘smart apparel' — also known as wearable electronics," wrote The Atlantic, which also said USPS would "get into the outdoor gear business."
“The federal government's mail transport and delivery agency this week said it will roll out a line of apparel and accessories it plans to sell in department and specialty stores,” wrote Reuters, also confusing the words “licensing” and “selling”. Other reports (including commentaries from The Washington Times and the Boston Herald) completely missed the mark, questioning how the Postal Service could compete with private-enterprise apparel companies.
USPS quietly took down the press release from its web site a day or two after issuing it (I have reproduced it below), then issued the following statement to Dead Tree Edition today in response to a query:
Today's USPS statement
“To clarify a press release issued recently, the Postal Service is not entering
the apparel business. For a royalty, the Postal Service is licensing the words ‘Rain, Heat & Snow’ and other Postal Service trademarks for commercial use by a clothing manufacturer. By agreement, the manufacturer will be able to use these words and trademarks on clothing or clothing labels, and in advertisements, in ways approved by the Postal Service. Other than this licensing agreement, the Postal Service has no relationship with the manufacturer. The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.”
In other words, the Rain Heat & Snow brand will not put USPS into the clothing business any more than Tesla bragging about being the Motor Trend Car of the Year makes Source Interlink (publisher of Motor Trend) a car company. Or any more than having so many brands using the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval makes Hearst a purveyor of consumer products.
Or any more than publishing an ad disguised as an article defending the Church of Scientology puts The Atlantic into the religion business. (Oh, did I touch a raw nerve?)
It’s times like this that make me ashamed to say I work in the U.S. publishing industry. Nowhere does the original USPS press release say anything about the agency making or selling clothes. The press release’s headline is somewhat misleading, but the press release’s text makes clear that the deal is a licensing agreement, pure and simple.
As with other licensing agreements, the licensee (The Wahconah Group) bears all the costs and risks, while the brand owner (USPS) gets a share of the proceeds. Financially, there is no downside for the Postal Service.
Here, for the record, is the query I submitted to USPS spokesman Roy A. Betts last night that prompted today's USPS statement: “You were listed as the media contact on the Feb. 19 press release headlined 'U.S. Postal Service to Introduce New Product Line' and were quoted by some news organizations on the subject. Can you explain why the news release has been taken down from the Postal Service's web site? Also, can you confirm that this is merely a licensing agreement for the Postal Service, where it would benefit from sales of the clothing but would not bear any such costs as manufacturing or marketing? I ask because some coverage of the announcement suggested that the Postal Service was competing with private industry or that it could lose money on the venture.”
If a semi-professional “blogger in his pajamas” grasped what the Postal Service’s news release meant, how come so many real reporters and editors in the mainstream media couldn’t get the story right?
Judge for yourself; here’s the original USPS news release:
U.S. Postal Service to Introduce New Product Line
Licensing Agreement Signed with Fashion Apparel Company
February 19, 2013
Release No. 13-026
WASHINGTON— Neither snow, nor rain nor gloom of night has taken on a different meaning at the U.S. Postal Service with plans to launch a new product line of apparel and accessories under the brand name, “Rain Heat & Snow.”
The Postal Service’s unofficial motto, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” serves as a backdrop for a licensing agreement the organization has signed with Cleveland-based fashion apparel company Wahconah Group, Inc. The agreement leverages Postal Service intellectual property by introducing the Rain Heat & Snow brand of apparel and accessory products.
“This agreement will put the Postal Service on the cutting edge of functional fashion,” said Postal Service Corporate Licensing Manager Steven Mills. “The main focus will be to produce Rain Heat & Snow apparel and accessories using technology to create ‘smart apparel’ — also known as wearable electronics.”
“The Wahconah Group is excited to be working with the U.S. Postal Service in launching this all-weather line of clothing,” said Chief Executive Officer Isaac Crawford. “The products will build on the rich American history of this iconic brand, creating specialized apparel for consumers, at affordable prices, delivering something new and exciting that retailers can offer their customers.”
Wahconah Group, Inc. is a minority-owned company based in Cleveland, OH, with extensive experience in the fashion apparel industry. The firm designs, sources, manufactures and sells apparel with a focus on the men’s apparel market. The company is establishing a showroom in the garment district of New York City to showcase their apparel lines to the fashion industry.
Under the licensing agreement with the Postal Service, Wahconah will initially introduce Rain Heat & Snow apparel and accessories for men with future plans for a women’s line. The goal is to sell this product in premier department and specialty stores..
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.
Other examples of Dead Tree Edition taking on the Mainstream Media include: