Post Office strike hits direct marketers hard

FILE PICTURE: A post office sign. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Direct marketing companies that rely heavily on the Post Office for deliveries are seriously impacted by the on-going Post Office strike, says Allastair Tempest, chief operating officer of the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa.

This affects especially campaigns by banks, insurance companies and retailers, says Rafiq Sallie, managing director of Tunleys Mail and Print, one of four major bulk mailing houses that print, label and sort such material on behalf of clients and to Post Office specifications.

Sallie says the Post Office cannot accept all envelopes and packages which results in delays in sending out the material and in the responses from the target market. That disrupts the marketing campaigns of Tunley’s clients and creates problems with storage space.

Impossible chaos

Tunleys dispatches over 3 million letters per month on behalf of clients, Sally said. The Post Office has representation at Tunleys’ premises to ensure compliance with its specifications and integration of the mailing process.

“At the moment the Post Office has asked us to bring our post as early as possible, before their staff members arrive, because that is when the problems start,” he says. As a result the company delivers as much as it can around 6:00am, but even so up to 90% of the material cannot be dispatched.

“Most clients cancel their campaigns until the problems have been sorted out,” he says.

“One of our clients sends out 200 000 envelopes per week. He does weekly campaigns and these are his bread and butter. He has now asked us to split the envelopes he usually sends out from Johannesburg (where postal workers are striking), between KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town where there is no strike action. That means extra cost to transport the mail to those regions.” Sally estimates the cost increase at up to 20% and says that can wipe out the client’s margin.

He says there is no viable alternative to the Post Office.

National reach

Tempest says many e-commerce companies are also reliant on the Post Office for deliveries of purchased products.

Tempest says no carrier has the same reach as the Post Office in rural areas.

The Post Office said on its Face-book page on Friday afternoon operations were back to normal at the Durban mail centre. “Witspos mail centre is operating at roughly 40% capacity. Germiston mail centre was also operational, but again not at full capacity. Tshwane Mail is unfortunately not accessible and remains closed. Operations in Cape Town have resumed but again, the mail centre is not yet working at full capacity.”

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