The United States Postal Service is teaming up with the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, to deliver packages on Sunday at no extra cost to customers—just in time for the holiday season.
The new feature will open to consumers in New York City and Los Angeles starting this week, with plans to expand to New Orleans, Phoenix, Dallas, and other metropolitan areas next year.
It’s a big move for Jeff Bezos’ retailing giant; having packages delivered on Sunday has always been costly or simply unavailable. UPS, for instance, does not deliver on Sundays, and FedEx has a few expensive options for Sunday shipping. Cheap Sunday delivery to two of America’s largest markets should provide a boost to Amazon’s holiday sales.
The deal is even bigger for the U.S. Postal Service, which has struggled in recent years with record losses ($15.9 billion in 2012), and the announcement in February that they were planning to discontinue Saturday mail delivery. (Congress nixed the idea, agreeing to fund the USPS only under the condition that it continued Saturday deliveries.)
Amazon chose USPS for the new service simply because “capability and desire matched,” said Amazon’s Vice President of Worldwide Operations and Consumer Service Dave Clark.
Amazon may be the first to attempt broad-scale Sunday delivery, but its competitors aren’t sitting still. Companies like eBay, Target, and Walmart are trying to revolutionize the retail shipping industry too, mainly by increasing delivery speed. Ebay, for example, offers one-hour delivery in some U.S. cities, and recently bought the UK-based delivery company Shutl to bring that service abroad.
The race to dominate the world of package delivery reflects larger shipping trends. Letter-sending has rapidly declined—a fact the Postal Service knows only too well—but parcel deliveries are increasing as more and more people do their shopping online.
Finally, the new service fills a gap for Amazon Prime users, who pay a subscription fee to get free two-day delivery on everything they buy. This posed a issue for purchases made on Fridays. Now the online retailer will be able to keep its promise any day of the week–at least for those customers in LA and NYC.