• on Oct 24th, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 32 comments
    A Contract Postal Unit (CPU) is a retail postal facility located inside a retail establishment, such as supermarkets, card and gift shops, pharmacies, and colleges. CPUs are operated by the retailer's employees and offer the same basic services available at a regular Post Office. The Village Post Office (VPO) concept was introduced earlier this year and is similar to the CPU in that they are retail postal facilities operated by community businesses. However, they provide limited postal products and services. CPUs and VPOs lower U.S. Postal Service expenses, primarily because they use already existing retail stores. The Postal Service does not have to rent its own store and hire dedicated staff. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, CPUs accounted for 8 percent of the Postal Service’s total retail network. In comparison, Canada has private dealer – operated outlets, which are similar to CPUs and account for more than 39 percent of Canada Posts® retail outlets; Australia has Licensed Post Offices and Community Postal Agencies, which are also similar to CPUs and account for 81 percent of Australia Posts® retail network. Expanding the use of CPUs and VPOs could assist the Postal Service in reducing its physical footprint, lowering expenses, providing more outlets for products and services, and potentially increasing access hours. What do you think? Would a system of CPU and VPOs better serve the current market? Do you have any concerns with the concept? Please share your thoughts and ideas. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Financial Control Directorate.
  • on Aug 29th, 2011 in Products & Services | 5 comments
    The Pushing the Envelope blog recently described some of the barriers that have prevented the Postal Service from optimizing its network of retail facilities. This week we’d like your thoughts on the factors the Postal Service should consider in developing a retail network for the future. If the Postal Service were to rebuild its retail network from scratch — focusing on today’s consumer behaviors and needs — would it look as it does now? Today, there are about 32,000 brick and mortar postal-operated retail facilities. However, the Postal Service generates about 35 percent of retail revenue through alternative access channels. For example, customers can buy stamps and access postal services at http://www.usps.com/, self-service kiosks, grocery stores, retail outlets, and privately operated shipper locations. The availability of alternatives combined with declining mail volume and changing consumer needs has led the Postal Service to renew its efforts to optimize the retail facility network. In recent months, the Postal Service has initiated action to address some of the institutional barriers that have inhibited modernizing the postal retail network. For example, in July 2011, the agency published final rules to improve the Post Office closing and consolidation process. However, public debate looms over this initiative. Numerous news articles have circulated about the Postal Service’s plan to study thousands of retail facilities for discontinuance opportunities, some questioning whether the final rules conflict with postal laws. Others maintain that Post Offices are essential to keeping communities connected and businesses strong and therefore should remain open even if they are not profitable. What should the Postal Service consider as it seeks to transform its retail network to meet future consumer needs? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Network Optimization Directorate.
  • on Apr 12th, 2010 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 40 comments
    The Postal Service is required by law to “provide, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.” Consequently, the Postal Service has the largest retail presence in America with more than 32,000 leased or owned facilities located across the country. Today, alternate access channels are widely available. Customers can purchase stamps and access services at the Postal Service’s website www.usps.com, self-serve kiosks, grocery stores, retail outlets, and privately-operated shipper locations. Meanwhile, in the past decade, business and household mailers have increasingly turned to electronic media to transmit correspondence that was formerly sent through the postal system. In addition, a weakened economy has resulted in declining mail volume and revenue. The combination of the availability of alternative access and declining revenue requires the Postal Service to re-evaluate its retail network to eliminate growing excess capacity, reduce costs, and improve efficiency. In May 2009, the Postal Service began a national initiative, known as retail optimization, to consolidate its retail stations and branches in urban and suburban areas. Unlike some other retailers, the Postal Service can’t close their stores without generating public reaction. Closing just a small percentage of postal facilities can affect thousands of people and communities and is often questioned by those communities involved. As a result, there is a need for the Postal Service to work with stakeholders to balance their interests and optimize resources. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Network Optimization Team.

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