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Postman delivering mailThe woes of the U.S. Postal Service have been well publicized. The government service keeps losing money, even as stamp prices keep rising. The reasons are well known too: Consumers send less mail because they communicate via e-mail and pay bills online. In addition, the USPS is hemmed in by federal legislation that requires it to pre-fund the retirement benefits for its employees—a substantial cost burden on a service that operates with pretty slim margins.

Earlier this year, the Postal Service announced that in response, it would be taking some drastic and painful measures. Many smaller post offices would close. Saturday delivery is about to become a thing of the past. But austerity-like tactics might not be sufficient, and that gap has led to some creative thinking by a famously institutional entity.

Rather than cutting more services, the U.S. Postal Service plans to expand into clothing retail, announcing that it will offer lines of men’s outerwear, headwear, shoes, and clothing starting in 2014. The goal is to develop an image for the clothing line that puts it at the “cutting edge of functional fashion.” Women’s wear is slated to roll out within a year of the introduction of the men’s lines.

Without in-house production capabilities, the U.S. Postal Service will be licensing its manufacturing to an external clothing designer, which has committed to showing and selling the line through New York’s famous Garment District. The anticipated products will include all-weather gear that can stand up to the worst weather elements, as well as features that people who are on the move will find useful, such as dedicated pockets for portable music devices.

The selling proposition further aims to blend the traditional appeal and image of the U.S. Postal Service—an institution that has functioned for as long as the United States has been in existence—with the innovative excitement of a service provider moving into product selling. The proposed name for the line evokes this combination: “Rain Heat & Snow.” That is, not only can the clothing wearers honor the oath taken by postal carriers (“Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night…”), but they also can generate some fashionable heat and have some fun in the snow.

Source: Jilian Fama, “From Mail to Clothes: USPS Launches Apparel Line,” ABC News Online, February 20, 2013