Mail Carried by USPS and Parcels Carried by Major Carriers, United States, 2004-2021

Mail Carried by USPS and Parcels Carried by Major Carriers, United States, 2004-2021

Sources: USPS. UPS and FedEx, Annual Reports. Packages shipped by FedEx Ground and FedEx Express. UPS involves US domestic parcel operations. First-class mail is used for postcards, letters, large envelopes, and small packages weighing less than 13 ounces. Total mail volume includes standard mail (or bulk), usually consisting of flyers, circulars, advertising, newsletters, bulletins, or catalogs.

Mail delivery in economies such as the United States undertook a notable transition. Despite economic and demographic growth, total mail volume declined by 39% between 2005 and 2020. This is partly attributable to the substitution of electronic forms of communication and a decline in the use of mail for marketing purposes (e.g. adverts). Inversely, the emergence of e-commerce is associated with the strong growth of parcel deliveries, including USPS (United States Postal Services), which delivered more than 7.3 billion parcel units in 2020, a growth of 135% from 2010. The parcel delivery segment has been the most significant growth sector for USPS, underlining that conventional postal services can gain from the e-commerce revolution. The two other major carriers, UPS and FedEx, experienced a respective growth of 59% and 128% during the same time frame.

The growth of home deliveries has incited online retailers such as Amazon to enter the parcel delivery market since they can generate enough cargo to offer their own account transport services. In 2021, it was estimated that Amazon delivered close to 5.8 billion parcels in the United States. Amazon delivers through its own distribution and delivery system about 60% of the parcels it ships. However, it owns only 4.5% of the square footage of the facilities (e.g. fulfillment centers) it uses for its distribution. The rest are leased.

The Covid-19 pandemic substantially impacted e-commerce, as parcel deliveries surged in 2020 while mail deliveries continued their decline. This is linked to shifting consumer demand patterns as lockdowns, social distancing, and related disruptions incited additional e-commerce demand.