Many years ago, when my father and uncles still owned the family bodega in Brooklyn, they decided on a whim to open on a Sunday. It was the only day of the week that the bodega was closed and they were curious what would happen if they opened it on Sundays too, if only for a few hours. So, one Sunday morning, one of the brothers lifted the metal gates and opened the bodega by himself, and by the time he pulled down the gates after lunch, the message was clear: Sundays would be their most profitable day. And from that day forward, until they sold the business a few years later, the brothers took turns opening the bodega on Sundays.
I couldn’t help but recall this bit of family history when I read the news yesterday that Amazon and the United States Postal Service (USPS) have partnered to deliver packages to customers on Sundays. The service will begin in Los Angeles and New York on November 17, with plans to expand it to Dallas, New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix, and other cities next year.
Here are some details from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:
Amazon will bring packages from its warehouses to Postal Service locations on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. The agency will then deliver them to doorsteps.
Sunday delivery will be available for all Amazon customers in markets where the program is available at no additional cost. Customers won’t specify Sunday delivery; eligible items will show up on Sunday if that is when they are ready.
Amazon selected the Postal Service over United Parcel Service (UPS), FedEx Corp. and others because its technology pairs well with the government agency’s [emphasis mine], said a spokeswoman, who declined to discuss specifics. The Postal Service delivers some Amazon packages on other days.
Amazon’s technology seems to pair very well with UPS’s and FedEx’s the other days of the week, so I’m not really buying that technology was the main deciding factor in partnering with USPS. I’m guessing USPS was simply a more eager and accommodating partner considering its financial situation ($6 billion in expected losses this year). Maybe FedEx and UPS couldn’t make Sunday deliveries work at the price Amazon wanted, since Amazon isn’t charging customers extra. Or maybe, since Amazon is delivering packages to USPS locations, there was better alignment between Amazon and USPS from a distribution network perspective.
The bottom line is that Sunday delivery is another chess move in the Amazon vs. Brick-and-Mortar match, another chapter in the omni-channel fulfillment story. Amazon and its competitors are racing to cover all the delivery bases. If same-day delivery is too fast for you (or not fast enough), or picking up packages at a nearby store or delivery locker is still too inconvenient, then how about Sunday delivery? The goal is not to lose a sale because you can’t deliver an order when and where a customer wants it. Or if you ask Amazon, the goal is to win the sale because you can deliver an order when and where the customer wants it and your competitors can’t.
What if we opened on Sundays? That’s the question my father and uncles asked many years ago. What if we delivered on Sundays? That’s the question Amazon is asking today. In both cases, the only way to truly find the answer to “What if” questions is to just do it. My father and uncles were pleasantly surprised, and I’m betting Amazon will be too.