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BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record
Spreading the word about the UN – one stamp at a time
15 June 2010 / 10:43

[Dateline: New York | Author: Department of Management]

With the increase of electronic media and social networking on the rise, the traditional mail has to fight for its niche in interpersonal communication. In light of changing consumer habits, the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) has reviewed its operations and is achieving an impressive increase in profits under a new business model. – UNPA’s continued success also contributes to spreading the outreach and ideals of the Organization.  
 
Times are changing and with them consumer habits evolve. The United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) has witnessed dramatic changes in the market for UN stamps in nearly 60 years of its operations that saw more than 1000 stamp issuances.

In the early years of the Organization, UN stamps were a big draw to the public and became a great way to raise awareness for UN issues.  Soon after the issuance of the first UN stamp in 1951, a boom period began that lasted for nearly two decades. Through the 1960s and 1970s, customers lined up for two city blocks on the first day of issuance for new UN stamps.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the sale of UN stamps declined until, in the late 1990s, UNPA started to report operational losses.

To turn the situation around, in 2002, UNPA hired a new Chief with strong marketing expertise to review operations and develop a new business model. Streamlined administrative structures, a new sales mechanism and an updated product catalogue range were introduced, together with the launch of Personalized stamps in 2003.

• By 2003, European operations were consolidated in Europe and the operations of Geneva were consolidated in Vienna. In Geneva, only a post office counter for retail operations was retained. Newly introduced personalized stamps that allowed customer photographs to be put on UN stamps became an instant hit. As early as 2004/05, UNPA reached a financial break-even point.

• In 2006/07, the UNPA’s first e-commerce website, http://unstamps.un.org was launched to offer UN stamps to a global audience online. By the end of the biennium, UNPA recorded a profit of 1.5 million dollars.

• In 2008/09, the stamps portfolio was revamped.  Joint issuances with major postal administrations raised awareness for UN issues and increased sale of UN stamps to record a biennium profit of 3.2 million dollars. Stamp collectors around the world embraced a series on World Heritage stamps (prepared in conjunction with the German Post office).  An innovative stamp series, “Sport for Peace” issued at the Beijing Olympics, used a new printing technology that involved gold-foiling the paper with the stamp image printed over the gold-coating to give a stunning effect.

A stamp issuance on "Climate Change" raised awareness on this very important theme, a topic which is highly regarded by UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon. A special stamp sheet was also used for albums given to Heads of State at the Climate Change Summit. Sales figures for these issuances were reminiscent of the boom times of the 1960’s.

• For 2010/11, UNPA’s plans are equally ambitious. In May, UNPA issued stamps on the theme “One Planet, One Ocean” to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives, and also to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). In June, UNPA will issue stamps to commemorate the milestone of the 65th Anniversary of the United Nations. UN stamps are also currently available at the World Expo in Shanghai, where more than 70 million visitors are expected. A number of special products launched for this event have been extremely popular with collectors. The future introduction of a new SAP computer system will help to further update and streamline business processes internally.

UNPA’s renewed business success is not only good for the financial bottomline, it is also a great vehicle to inform the public about the Organization and the ideals it stands for.  

If you want to contribute to UNPA’s success and help to spread the word about the Organization, one stamp at a time, consider the following:

• Encourage family and friends visiting the UN to stop by the UNPA counter and create personalized stamps with their photo on it. They make for good souvenirs, even if not put on a letter.

• Check out the UNPA website at http://unstamps.un.org for more information about collecting United Nations stamps, which also make great and unusual gifts.