Office Depot Partners with U.S. Post Office

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Consumers can now mail out their packages while picking up school supplies.

Office Depot (Stock quote: ODP) is now offering U.S. Postal Services in stores, including Priority Mail Flat Rate Service, Priority Mail Service, Express Mail Service, First-Class Mail Service as well as everyday postage stamps.

The partnership, which marks the first time USPS has offered its services somewhere other than its own locations, rolled out nationwide on Monday.

Office Depot approached the USPS after market research showed consumers wanted access to more shipping alternatives. Prior to its latest partnership, Office Depot only offered UPS (Stock Quote: UPS) shipping and mailing services in its locations.

“We figured it could be a win-win for both us and the USPS,” George Hill, senior vice president of Office Depot’s Copy and Print Center, tells MainStreet.

According to Hill, who will oversee the new service, the USPS welcomed the opportunity to add shipping locations that were open for longer hours and during most holidays. While Office Depot will retain the revenue from all store sales, they’ll pay the costs required to provide the services, such as training and packaging materials.

"We're excited to be able to extend some of the best shipping values in the country to Office Depot customers, at a time and place that's convenient to them," Susan Plonkey, president of Mailing and Shipping Services for the Postal Service, says. "Small businesses, especially, will be able to take advantage of flat rate shipping as one more way to help control costs."

Office Depot currently has about 1,100 locations in the U.S, while the USPS operates about 36,000 post offices and stations nationwide. However, according to the Washington Post, the USPS, which is expected to post about $7 billion in losses for the fiscal year, wants permission from Congress to close locations and open smaller retail outlets in supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers such as Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT).

As previously reported, the USPS has taken a hit over the past few years. Mail volume reduced as the weak economy forced companies to cut their advertising and more people are relying on the Internet as their main source of communication. The decrease in business led to a rate increase on first-class mail in May. And other increases are expected to follow.

While consumers responded negatively to the USPS rate increase, Hill said they’re readily welcoming its presence at Office Depot, which tested the added service at select locations earlier this year.

“We’ve only offered the service for a very limited amount of time, but we have received extremely positive feedback,” he said.

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