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The Demise of the USPS Regional Rate – Is There a Substitute?

The Demise of the USPS Regional Rate - Is There a Substitute?

The US Postal Service confirmed it would no longer be making Regional Rate-sized boxes available to shippers once it does away with the service in January. That means sellers will have to look for alternative shipping services and supplies, with sellers probably looking first at Priority Mail (Flat Rate, Standard, and Cubic) to compare rates.

The USPS website explained that Regional Rate Boxes A and B were best used for small, dense packages being shipped short distances. ShipStation had compared the various flavors of Priority Mail in a post from July.

A post from Shippo earlier this year had pointed out that USPS Priority Mail Cubic pricing had always been cheaper than Regional Rate – but said that in 2022, Regional Rate had become more competitive – frustrating, since now Regional Rate is going away.

Priority Mail Cubic is available only to shippers with Commercial pricing – so you won’t be able to get this rate at the Post Office window (Retail) – but in July of this year, it became available via Commercial Base, so no longer just for higher volume shippers.

While Shippo pointed out that USPS Priority Mail Cubic was often best for packages “about the size of a shoebox that weigh 1-20 pounds,” it requires sellers to use their own packaging, something sellers must factor in when comparing rates.

But that’s far from being a deal breaker – shippers need to determine the packaging – and delivery method – that’s best suited for the product and customer, according to Krish Iyer, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships & Industry Relations at Auctane, which operates numerous brands in the mailing, shipping, and logistics field.

“Many shippers start with using flat rate and regional rate offerings across carriers,” Iyer said. “Over time, however, they end up finding it is actually more economical to simply use their own packaging and weigh it on their own.”

Another potential benefit of using your own boxes: “using your own packaging allows merchants to carry their brand to the delivery itself,” Iyer said.

Nevertheless, some sellers find free packaging irresistible. After reading in EcommerceBytes that the USPS would no longer be offering Priority Mail Regional Rate service as of January 22, 2023, a reader asked us about the availability of the Regional Rate boxes:

“Since USPS will be discontinuing the Regional boxes, I would like to know if they will continue with those SIZE boxes even if they do not have regional pricing,” she asked. “I use these extensively and the box size is important.”

A USPS spokesperson told us no. “Regional boxes and pricing will be discontinued after Jan 22, 2023,” so the USPS will discontinue offering Regional Rate boxes – but they are currently available while supplies last. And, he said, “There are boxes available, with similar dimensions, on USPS.com.”

The USPS also makes available some options for sellers who do a minimum volume of business with the Postal Service.

“Customers who meet minimum revenue requirements and would like to continue using packaging with the exact dimensions of the Regional Rate boxes can inquire with the USPS sales team about the Expedited Packaging Supplies program,” the spokesperson told us, providing a link to USPS.com/business.

The USPS Office of Inspector General published information about the Expedited Packaging Supplies program 2 years ago that gives an idea of the three types of packaging the USPS makes available to shippers:

  • Standard packaging is available to customers through its fulfillment centers and local post offices. There are over 50 standard items available for domestic and international Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express, including envelopes, boxes, tubes, mailing labels, tags, and stickers.
  • Specialized packaging is available to qualifying customers when standard supplies will not meet their needs. For our review period, customers must have generated a minimum of $50,000 in annualized expedited revenue to be eligible for specialized packaging. There are 16 specialized boxes of various sizes and five envelopes available to qualifying customers when standard packaging does not meet their needs.
  • Customized packaging is designed to fit specific needs of the customer and is available when standard or specialized packaging does not meet customer needs. For our review period, customers must have generated a minimum of $250,000 in annualized expedited revenue to be eligible for customized packaging. The packaging consists of boxes, envelopes, cohesive packaging, and address labels. It can also include cobranding the packaging with the customer’s logo.

Knowing sellers might wish to continue using the Regional Rate boxes they had in stock rather than having to dispose of them, we asked the USPS spokesperson if that would be allowed. The answer: yes. “After January 22, 2023, customers can continue to use these boxes at the Priority Mail rate based on weight and zone,” he said.

Changes such as these are another reason sellers can benefit from online-postage services. They compare USPS rates to find the most cost-effective service for the particular package weight, dimension, and shipping origin and destination – and many services also compare rates across all major shipping carriers and services.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.