Finally: The U.S. Postal Service functional-fashion clothing line

Modernity has been tough for the U.S. Postal Service. The ‘self-supporting’ government enterprise, faced with technologies and market competition slowly but surely rendering their business model less and less viable, has tried to institute various coping mechanisms — cutting costs, reducing the size of their workforce, consolidating processing locations, etcetera — but to little practical avail. The USPS still finished up with a $16 billion deficit for 2012 alone, and the outfit has already defaulted on its retiree health benefit payments and maxed out their line of credit from the Treasury.

Their 2012 budget shortfall prompted the USPS to re-strategize some more, and they announced their plans to call it quits on Saturday deliveries — but even if the maneuver delivers on the projected $2 billion annually in cost-cutting, it’s still too little, too late. The USPS needs to reform, streamline, and innovate, and fast.

Innovate, you say? Oh, we’ll innovate all day long, by… er… producing our own high-end clothing line? What the what?

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. …

“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.”

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.

Okay, so… is the point of this to use the profits from the clothing line to help the Postal Service fill up their budget gaps? Or are they trying to channel some sort of Americana-sentimentality over the USPS’s history into a marketing and awareness campaign? Or both?

“For now, it’s all-weather, all-season clothing for men, ranging from headgear, footwear, jackets, coats and shirts,” Betts explained. …

“It will make a contribution, but it’s bigger than that,” Betts said. “It’s really brand reputation, brand awareness, in addition to revenues.

“We’re a postal service that recognizes that our business model has to change, we’ve got to be more innovative with the products that we bring to market,” the spokesman said.

If the ailing Postal Service can’t manage to come up with a sustainable business model merely in terms of mail delivery, what with their legal monopoly and all, I can’t imagine how they’re going to convince the outdoor-trendy to switch over from their Northface rain jackets, Columbia backpacks, and Patagonia vests. Good luck with that.