WASHINGTON (AP) -
As consumers demand ever-quicker and convenient package delivery, the U.S.
Postal Service wants to boost its business this holiday season by offering
what few e-commerce retailers can provide: cheap next-day service with
packages delivered Sundays to your home.
Walmart says it is considering the Sunday option, which could reshape
weekend shopping trips to the mall.
available in 20 major U.S. cities, allows consumers to place online orders
with participating retailers before a cutoff time Saturday, the Postal
Service said. Postal carriers pick up merchandise from local stores for
delivery the following day, similar to the Sunday package deliveries it now
handles almost exclusively for online leader Amazon in much of the U.S.
The Postal Service
hasn’t disclosed which stores may sign onto the new pilot program, launched
in advance of retailers’ most competitive time of the year.
“It’s one of the
ideas Walmart is looking at,” company spokesman Ravi Jariwala told The
Associated Press, citing the big-box chain’s recent focus on getting goods
to shoppers’ front doors quickly. In recent months, Walmart has announced
added shipping options to better compete with Amazon, from acquiring a
same-day delivery service in New York to testing drop-offs of packages by
Uber drivers and Walmart employees.
Best Buy and
Target, which recently added speedier holiday shipping options, declined to
comment on the program.
weekend service is part of the Postal Service’s aggressive push into the
parcel business at a time when its more lucrative first-class mail is
declining in the digital age. With Amazon continuing to raise the bar of
“free shipping” conveniences, from one- or two-day package arrivals to
keyless in-home delivery via couriers, the financially beleaguered post
office is billing itself as the trusted, low-cost carrier already serving
every U.S. household.
The expanded Sunday
delivery is aimed at consumers like Susan Dennis, 68, of Seattle. Weary of
weekend trips to the mall where she often ends up stuck in traffic or
waiting too long in line, the retiree says she buys online whenever possible
and isn’t wedded to just Amazon, if the product quality is good and the
delivery “fast and inexpensive.”
deliveries would be one of the sweetest deals ever - give me the URL and I
will buy whatever,” Dennis said.
e-commerce growth and its Sunday operations, the Postal Service will reach
new highs this year in holiday package delivery, with nearly 850 million
U.S. parcels delivered from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, according to
figures compiled by industry tracker ShipMatrix Inc. for the AP. That 13
percent increase from 2016 would exceed the single-digit percentage growth
for UPS and FedEx, putting the post office on track to capture 45.6 percent
market share in peak holiday deliveries, ShipMatrix said.
The post office’s
growth is due in large part to its established network in the “last mile,”
the final and usually most expensive stretch of a package’s journey to a
customer’s door. UPS and FedEx already subcontract a chunk of their
last-mile deliveries to the post office. Due to slower growth this holiday
season, the two private carriers are expected to drop in market share, to
31.3 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively, according to the ShipMatrix
UPS, in a dig at
the post office’s financial woes, says it is focused on profitable growth
and less concerned about expanding market share, “especially if it were to
involve loss-making service expansions.” FedEx said it had no comment on
market share and would boost operations during the holiday season to meet
such as Uber and Deliv, are expected to rise, delivering about 5.2 percent
of the peak holiday packages.
“Having a Postal
Service driver on every street every day making deliveries, you can’t really
beat that,” said Satish Jindel, founder and president of ShipMatrix.
The holiday plans
include added postal delivery on Sundays beginning Nov. 26 and delivery on
Christmas Day in some cities, the postal service said. It also offers a new
online tool that allows consumers to reschedule package deliveries to ensure
someone is home to receive them.
The Postal Service
also bucked the shipping industry by keeping package rates largely unchanged
for the holidays. UPS for the first time is imposing holiday surcharges on
ground shipments to homes during peak periods, such as the weeks leading
into Black Friday and Christmas, while FedEx is raising rates for certain
“The Postal Service
is well-prepared to meet our customers’ needs during the holiday season,
especially as demand for package deliveries continues to grow,” said Megan
Brennan, postmaster general.
cheered the Postal Service’s promise in the digital age, noting that there
now is little talk of ending Saturday mail delivery given rising package
demands. “The future of USPS probably hasn’t been better in a long time,”
said David G. Ross, a shipping analyst at Stifel Financial Corp.
Still, its parcel
success hasn’t translated into profits.
agency of government, the Postal Service has lost money for 10 years,
primarily due to costs of its pension and health-care obligations. And while
online shopping has led to years of double-digit growth in its
package-delivery business, it hasn’t offset declines in first-class mail.
The post office is seeking flexibility to raise the price of mailing
letters, and needs Congress to free it from a 2006 requirement that it
pre-fund retiree health benefits.
“The future is
bright for the Postal Service - if it doesn’t go bankrupt first,” said Ravi
Shanker, an equity analyst at Morgan Stanley.