In Vancouver, the Postal Service delivered packages the past two Sundays and will again be delivering this Sunday, said Vancouver Postmaster Scott Foster. Four carriers from the downtown post office and five from the East Vancouver office will be making deliveries from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Foster said. The rare Sunday deliveries are needed this year due to an unusually high volume of packages sent by mail, he said.
In recent years, mail carriers have had fewer and fewer letters to deliver. Demand has dropped so much that the U.S. Postal Service, which lost $5 billion in the 2013 fiscal year, tried to get Congress' approval to stop Saturday letter deliveries.
So it came as a surprise when the Chicago post office announced last week that local carriers would deliver packages seven days a week in the two weeks before Christmas — including this Sunday — to keep up with a larger-than-expected boom in demand for holiday shipping.
"Why the growth? Two words: online shipping," said Mark Reynolds, Postal Service spokesman for the Chicago District. "A lot more online business is coming to us than in years past."
Though the number of pieces of first-class mail, which makes up the largest share of the Postal
Service's revenue, fell from 91.7 billion in the 2008 fiscal year to 65.8 billion in the 2013 fiscal year, the number of package shipments has been rising. This year, the Postal Service handled 3.7 billion of them, up from 3.1 billion in 2009.
Although the strengthening economy "doesn't hurt," Reynolds attributed the growth to the Postal Service's focus on partnering with major online retailers, including Amazon.com Inc.
Last month, Amazon announced it would use the Postal Service to offer Sunday package delivery for customers in the Los Angeles and New York areas. Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman said that although the company uses a variety of shipping services, it is hoping to expand the Postal Service's Sunday delivery program to a large portion of the U.S. population in 2014.
The Postal Service is also trying to appeal to the growing number of small businesses selling their goods online with easier, more affordable options, Reynolds said.
"We've really gone after that business, working with them to see what they need," Reynolds said.
Parcel shipments were up 6 percent in fiscal year 2013 over the previous year, according to the Postal Service. The Postal Service had expected customers to ship 420 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, about 12 percent more than shipped during the same period last year. The Postal Service is now expecting even more, Reynolds said.
To handle the flood of parcels, Chicago mail carriers have been delivering packages before the regularly scheduled mail delivery in addition to making deliveries on the two Sundays, according to the Postal Service.