Quick: Who’s the biggest retailer in the U.S.? Not Walmart (5,500 stores). If you want to go to QSRs, it’s not even Starbucks (14,000) or Subway (24,000). In terms of sheer size and locations, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is the biggest retailer in the country, with 31,000 locations covering pretty much every town.
Of course, it’s revenue, not size, that has been USPS’ problem. Now, a new report is asking a good question: What if the post office expanded its retail offerings?
The report, which was commissioned by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that in 2018, USPS’ retail facilities generated about $10.5 billion in revenue and cost $5 billion to operate. Those facilities accounted for about 15 percent of total fiscal year 2018 revenues and about 7 percent of its total costs. While the GAO is not talking about selling coffee, sandwiches or sleepwear at the post office, they are considering expanding services that make the PO a destination, particularly in rural areas.
“Offering additional non-postal products and services at USPS retail facilities could provide consumer, government or community benefits, but viability may be limited,” the report states. “Stakeholders said new offerings, such as expanded financial products or government services, could, for example, enhance consumers’ access and government efficiencies. In particular, some noted that USPS could provide a viable banking alternative for those lacking banking services. However, USPS officials, postmasters GAO surveyed, and stakeholders GAO interviewed said that additional offerings may generate minimal revenue, and that USPS may face factors limiting the viability of these offerings.”