"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." The U.S. Postal Service, with this motto in mind, has performed admirably for much of America's history in delivering mail of all types to its patrons. Today, with the advent of email and competing package delivery services, the shipping and information delivery methods of the average consumer have changed. Some have sought to profit from this cultural evolution by opening full-service post office box stores. While the process of opening a post office alternative can be challenging, the end result for some has been quite lucrative.
Develop and draft a business plan that outlines your potential profit centers, expenses, expansion plans and other data that demonstrates that you understand the package business. Include both your proposed monthly or yearly box rental fees and your other income streams, such as selling shipping supplies, offering gift-wrapping service, providing alternative shipping or courier services, or whatever niche that you see as a need in your community.
Find a location that combines the best size and location for your store. Be certain it is centrally and conveniently located to draw the most potential customers.
Present your business plan to your lender. Be prepared to explain the fixed-income aspects of the business, such as box rental, and the variable aspects, such as your offering of services and supplies.
Borrow enough, if necessary, to provide working capital to pay payroll and your own wages for at least six months. It may take time to lease enough boxes to meet these expenses.
Design the layout of the store to include 24-hour access, if possible. This can be accomplished by partitioning the rental boxes in a secure area of the store with a secondary section dedicated to tangible items you can protect while the store is unmanned at night. Use a security system in the secondary section to protect your assets.
Arrange shipping relationships with UPS and FedEx, among others, so that if you want to ship or arrange pickup for packages beyond the scope of the USPS, you will have options for your customers. This can also be a lucrative income area.
Lease boxes of varying sizes. Some customers who only receive letters and magazines will want a smaller box to save money while others who receive a large number of parcels will likely prefer a larger box.
Include a few very large locked boxes in your 24-hour section in which you can put large boxes. Do not lease these to consumers. Instead, lock a key for the large box in the customer's box for after-hours pickup of a package when needed.
Develop multiple streams of profit as your business begins to grow and you see the needs of your customers. Once your box rentals reach capacity, you will want to supplement your income with product or service offerings rather than attempting to raise your box rental prices too quickly, risking cancellations.
Market your business to your customer niche, promising the convenience of a centrally located store and the variety of services you offer. Offer shipping or service discounts, especially early in your store's existence, to get your customers acquainted with what you offer.
Items you will need
- High-visibility storefront location
- Locking mailboxes of varying sizes
- Shipping scales and other packing supplies
- Security system with cameras
- Shipping supplies
- Business plan
- Consider services such as print services, brochures, signs, custom-labelled merchandise and other business center products and services if you see that your business draws a substantial number of business clients.
- Consider offering a delivery service for large boxes.
- Market to small communities who lose their post office during postal cutbacks.
- Consider a turn-key franchise rather than "winging it." There are several solid, established franchises available that offer name recognition, simplify the business processes, and provide a franchisee with suppliers and technical assistance.
- Contact your local postmaster to see if there are any necessary permits or regulations you need to obtain and follow in your community.
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