US Postal Service makes products available at Office Depot

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US Postal Service mailing and shipping services will be available at nearly 1,100 Office Depot stores, the two companies said August 16. Office Depot is the first national retailer to offer USPS shipping products and services.

The deal will give consumers access to Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes and envelopes, Priority Mail service, Express Mail service, Parcel Post, stamps, and delivery and signature confirmation services.

The agreement will help the financially struggling US Postal Service to reach consumers more conveniently, said Michael Plunkett, manager of retail partners at the USPS.

“If you think about the hypothetical situation today, if someone goes into an Office Depot prior to this deal, they only have one choice, and that's UPS,” he said. “Now [consumers are] able to choose the US Postal Service, and we expect to get additional shipping volume from that.”

George Hill, SVP of copy and print at Office Depot, said company research showed customers would find two in-store shipping options appealing. Small business and microbusiness owners, as well as consumers, are expected to primarily use the shipping services, he said.

Having two shipping options “is a true differentiator for us,” said Hill.  

He explained that Office Depot will promote the partnership in its direct mail, e-mail, insert and broadcast initiatives, as well as through in-store advertising.

The USPS also wants to boost its revenue stream through the partnership, he added.

“We indicated in March that one priority is to make service more convenient and expand access to our products, and this is a significant step in that direction,” he said. “It puts us in 1,000 more retail locations where consumers can access us.”

The USPS reported a net loss of nearly $2.5 billion for June, a significant increase from the $1.3 billion net loss reported for the same period last year. For the first nine months of its fiscal year, the USPS saw a net loss of nearly $5.4 billion. Total June mail dropped 2.5% year over year to 13.2 billion pieces, while year-to-date mailing volume was down 4.9% from 2009.

The USPS and Office Depot began testing the partnership late last year, Plunkett said, adding that the organization hopes the announcement “gives us a bump” through the back-to-school and holiday shipping seasons.

Consumers and small businesses are expected to be the partnership's main customers, said Plunkett.

The Postal Service will also promote the initiative with in-store and traditional advertising efforts that will debut in coming weeks, he said.

UPS declined to comment on the initiative.

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