Sunday, September 28, 2014
Some people stocked up to beat the price increase but not many bought more than a few extra months' worth of stamps, numbers released Friday by the U.S. Postal Service suggest.
Thanks to the temporary "exigent" surcharge, January's increase to 49 cents was the largest since Forever Stamps went on sale in 2007. That led to speculation about people hoarding or even investing in Forever Stamps.
First Class Forever Stamp revenues were up 10% in December 2013 and 35% in January 2014 over the previous year, temporarily netting USPS more than $300 million in additional cash. Then came the drought: The number of stamps sold was down 18% in February, 17% in March, and 12% in April.
By comparison, the 1-cent increase in January 2013 caused hardly a blip -- a 5% increase that month and then a 9% decrease the next.
But the decrease wasn't much more than would be expected from the long-term trend of declining First Class letter mail.
If the surcharge expires next summer, as currently scheduled, the price of Forever Stamps will probably decrease for the first time, most likely by a penny or two. But those who own 49-cent stamps will not receive rebates.
Despite email and online billing, people are still mailing plenty of letters: In the 12-month period from September 2013 to August 2014, the Postal Service sold more than 13 billion Forever Stamps, worth more than $6 billion.