WASHINGTON -- Retail representatives were dismayed by the recommendations for rate hikes in bulk mail announced by the Postal Rate Commission Wednesday.

Third class bulk and second class regular rates were both hit with an increase of 14 percent. Parcel post gets an 18 percent hike.

"This will obviously make life more difficult for bulk rate mailers," said Moe Cain, vice president of legal affairs for the International Mass Retail Association. "If this is good news for anyone, it's good news for alternative delivery services."

"Given that you already have a 30 percent increase in the cost of paper, this is a double whammy for anyone using the mail for advertising and marketing," said Gene Del Polito, executive director of the Advertising and Mail Marketing Association.

In other rate hikes, department store bills (first class five-digit presorted) will increase to 27.4 cents for the first ounce, up from 24.8 cents, with no increase for the second ounce. And some saw that as good news.

"The decision isn't perfect, but from the retailers' point of view it's far better than it could have been," says Mallory Duncan, vice president and general counsel of the National Retail Federation. "The Postal Rate Commission has begun to recognize our point that the second ounce of first class mail should not be unduly overcharged." Retailers frequently use the second ounce to include advertising with credit mailers.

The rate hikes, which include a 3-cent hike on regular first class mail to 32 cents for the first ounce, still need approval from the Postal Service governing board and are expected to go into effect Jan. 1. - Fairchild News Service

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