It’s no secret that the US Postal Service is strapped for cash these days. Just a few weeks ago, the agency announced it would discontinue Saturday mail service, in an effort to put a dent in a debt of upwards of $15 billion.
Its latest moneymaking scheme is a little more cheerful. The Postal Service announced Tuesday that it has partnered with a Cleveland-based apparel company to launch a USPS clothing line, set to hit stores in early 2014.
The product line of apparel and accessories will be sold under the brand “Rain Heat & Snow,” playing off the postal service motto “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” according to a USPS press release.
“This agreement will put the Postal Service on the cutting edge of functional fashion,” said Postal Service Corporate Licensing Manager Steven Mills in the release. “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 clothing company, The Wahconah group, will initially focus on a men’s line, set to launch in spring 2014 and be sold in high-end department and specialty stores. Plans for a women’s line are also in the works.
“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,” Wahconah Group CEO Isaac Crawford said in the release.
The Postal Service has some prior fashion industry experience. Back in the 1980s, a line of merchandise including neckties, mugs, and t-shirts were sold directly through post offices for the better part of a decade. USPS spokesperson Roy Betts told CNN Money that the products were quite successful, but were discontinued after lobbyists argued that the agency’s main function was to process mail and sell stamps – not compete with private businesses.
This is the agency’s first foray into private licensing, though it has made a licensing dispute work for it in the past. Back in 2004, USPS lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to an electronic indie music act called The Postal Service, who had a popular album called “Give Up,” at the time.
The band, made up of three members of separate, popular, active indie bands at the time, produced their songs by sending tracks to each other through the mail (hence the name). Once the official Postal Service found this out, they dropped the cease and desist and ended up licensing the group’s song “Such Great Heights” for a few TV commercial spots.