Online shoppers in the US have come a step closer to “anytime” delivery as Amazon expands package shipments to Sundays through a deal with the US Postal Service.
Shipping has become an area of intense competition in ecommerce and Amazon’s move will raise the bar for peers including eBay and Walmart, which have already rolled out same-day delivery services.
The US Postal Service began delivering packages for Amazon in New York and Los Angeles on Sunday and will extend the service next year to other cities including Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix.
Colin Sebastian, analyst at Robert W Baird, said the partnership would enable Amazon to reduce the weekend “bottleneck” of orders placed from Friday to Sunday and bring “anytime delivery” within sight.
As delivery competition has intensified in the past 18 months, retailers have found that while many consumers like quicker shipments, a large number also want the convenience of having packages delivered when they know they will be at home.
Sunday deliveries have extra significance this year because of a late Thanksgiving. It means there are six fewer days than last year between the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and Christmas, leaving people with less time to shop.
Amazon and the USPS declined to comment on what fees the online retailer was paying for the service, but it will provide a much-needed new stream of revenue to the postal service, which has lost roughly $20bn in the past two years.
The US’s postmaster-general Patrick Donahoe said in September that the service was “in the midst of a financial disaster”.
Amazon said Sunday deliveries would be free for subscribers to its $79-a-year Prime loyalty programme and available at standard shipping rates for other customers.
Dave Clark, Amazon’s vice-president of worldwide operations and customer service, said Prime members “can order a backpack for [their] child on Friday and be packing it for them Sunday night”.
A rise in package shipments driven by the growth of ecommerce has been a rare positive trend for the postal service, which is grappling with the consequences of a drastic shrinkage in the market for paper mail.
Online retailers also rely heavily on the shipping services of UPS and FedEx.
Last month eBay acquired a same-day courier company called Shutl in order improve its high-speed delivery service, eBay Now.
Walmart in October announced that it was extending a pilot same-day delivery service for groceries from the San Francisco Bay area to Denver.