Online shopping behemoth Amazon announced Monday that it would be the first retailer to partner with the U.S. Postal Service to offer Sunday delivery, beginning Nov. 17 in the New York and Los Angeles areas.
Amazon Prime members, who receive unlimited two-day shipping at no extra charge on millions of items for a $79 annual fee, will see the Sunday delivery option available at checkout after placing items in their online carts.
"As online shopping continues to increase, the Postal Service is very happy to offer shippers like Amazon the option of having packages delivered on Sunday," said Patrick R. Donahoe, postmaster general and chief executive officer of the USPS. "With this new service, the Postal Service is now delivering packages seven days a week in select cities."
Amazon plans to expand the service in 2014 to reach other locations, including Dallas, Houston and Phoenix.
Neither Amazon nor the USPS said how much Amazon is paying for Sunday delivery service.
The USPS has been grappling with tumbling mail volume as Americans communicate more online and has struggled under the weight of massive required payments for future retiree health benefits.
October through December, the first quarter of the USPS's fiscal year, is typically the strongest because of the holidays.
The postal agency, which recently failed to win congressional approval to halt Saturday delivery as a money-saving measure, lost $1.3 billion in October through December 2012, compared with a $3.3 billion loss for that quarter in 2011. Although losses have slowed, the USPS still expects to face low levels of cash for the rest of 2013.
In addition, a late Thanksgiving — the unofficial kickoff for holiday sales — has lopped six days off the season, leaving retailers little room for error in the approaching shopping season, which typically generates 30 percent of sales each year.
Forecasts for this year's holiday retail season have been somewhat gloomy, but they were issued before recent economic data showed stronger-than-expected growth in jobs and the broad economy.
The retail analysis firm ShopperTrak said in September it expected sales to rise only 2.4 percent this November and December from the year before, compared with increases of 3 percent in 2012, 4 percent in 2011 and 3.8 percent in 2010.
"We're preparing for that last week to be an incredible surge in volume as customers get those last-minute gifts, and we're lining up every delivery solution we have," said Dave Clark, Amazon's vice president of worldwide operations and customer service.
Al Jazeera and wire services