The United States Postal Service has announced it will be launching its very own clothing line in an attempt to generate much-needed revenue and offset its mounting debt.
Under the brand name "Rain Heat & Snow," the new clothing line will be produced by the Cleveland-based and minority-owned fashion apparel company Wahconah Group, to which the USPS licensed the phrase in an agreement with the company.
The brand name is derived from the postal services unofficial motto: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
The new clothing line will be designed and financed by the Wahconah Group, and made available at high-end, premier department and specialty stores across the country, according to Tuesday's announcement.
The postal service will receive "a small percentage of sales," said Isaac Crawford, CEO of the Wahconah Group, in an interview with CNNMoney
The first line of clothing for men is scheduled to be released by spring 2014, said Crawford, while a similar women's line is still in the works.
"This agreement will put the Postal Service on the cutting edge of functional fashion," said Postal Service Corporate Licensing Manager Steven Mills in a statement. "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 "Rain Heat & Snow" clothing line isn't the USPS' first time venturing into fashion, having sold an assortment of branded goods – neckties, t-shirts, posters, and coffee mugs – at post offices in the 1980s.
The prior product line was a hit, according to USPS spokesman Roy Betts, who told CNNMoney that the items were discontinued after Washington lobbyists complained that the Postal Service’s sole function was to process mail and sell stamps, not to sell merchandise.
By law, the Postal Service is an independent agency of the executive branch that hasn't directly received taxpayer-dollars since the early 1980s, except in the form of subsidies.
To a large extent, many of the money problems presently plaguing the Postal Service stem from the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, passed by Congress in 2006, which requires the agency to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees.
The USPS also has seen a steadily declining revenue stream over the past decade, due in part to the 2008-2009 recession and decreasing mail volume caused by the rise of email.
The USPS has already exhausted a $15 billion taxpayer loan, having reported a $1.3 billion loss in the last quarter of 2012 alone
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