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.
The Postal Service has “coupled” its retail and delivery operations, both managerially and physically, since delivery services were first established almost 150 years ago. Historical patterns, or the needs for delivery service efficiencies, primarily determined the location of physical facilities, which typically house both delivery and retail operations. Demands for postal retail services are changing both geographically and demographically as consumers age and population centers shift.
Despite financial challenges resulting from declining mail volumes and current economic conditions, the Postal Service is continually driving efficiency by making better use of space, staffing, equipment, and transportation in processing mail. One key element of improving efficiency is consolidating mail processing operations, which is an ongoing effort.
Since fiscal year 2009, the Postal Service has completed 47 consolidations and has an additional 107 consolidations in progress for proposed savings of approximately $255 million.
The U.S. Postal Service recently announced that it would study approximately 3,700 postal retail facilities which are candidates for consolidation. Many policymakers and Postal Service customers have expressed concern over the effect these potential consolidations will have on access to postal services and as well as the social life of rural communities where the local post office acted as a gathering point for the community.
A number of media news articles in the last year have examined reductions in Post Office retail hours around the country. They report that some Post Offices are cutting back or eliminating Saturday hours, opening late in the morning or closing earlier in the afternoon during the week. The Postal Service faces significant legal and political constraints when it tries to close Post Offices, but faces few constraints when it acts to cut back on the hours a facility is open. However, eliminating hours amounts to a partial scaling back of retail service.
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.