November 13, 2013 | by Mark Lee
What Amazon’s USPS deal signals for city streets
busy city, traffic, gay news, Washington Blade

The arrangement with Amazon will also assist the national mail service in reducing annual operating deficits currently in the billions of dollars. (Photo by Bigstock)

Satisfying American commercial culture is now a full-week, round-the-clock activity. Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service confirmed that reality earlier this week.

USPS and the e-retailer announced on Monday that the postal service had agreed to a deal for Sunday delivery of Amazon parcels at lower weekday rates. This service will begin immediately in both New York City and Los Angeles markets, expanding to include D.C. and much of the rest of the country beginning early next year.

This agreement will alter online commerce by engendering delivery date expansion by other retailers. The arrangement with Amazon will also assist the national mail service in reducing annual operating deficits currently in the billions of dollars.

Traveling to a store as the only, or perhaps even primary, method of acquiring basic, standardized and even selection-style merchandise could eventually become almost as anachronistic as mailing a personal letter.

Bigger than that, outdated notions regarding the ongoing profitability and future viability of a robust corporate brick-and-mortar retail presence by some types of businesses can be expected to trend toward novelty.

This bold announcement, the contractual details of which are private under a sealed agreement, will undoubtedly prove popular with the public. Reaction to the plan has focused on how fast the service extension to additional areas will roll out and how widespread ultimate availability will be. It is universally viewed as a winning move by both entities.

Many consumers have less time or desire to shop in person for all products but want immediate in-hand access to goods on their schedules and at their convenience. Growing remote-customer demand for quick-turnaround delivery will only expand and accelerate. Business ability to provide at-home receipt on Sundays is an important component and soon-to-be commonplace standard for meeting that requirement.

It’s not that all selling of specific product categories at specialized storefront businesses will disappear or that access to in-person, on-site, over-the-counter purchase of certain goods both incidental and larger will be exclusive to online transactions or even consolidated retailers. It will be more mundane and micro-incidental in its evolution.

But it does portend a continuing process already well underway in many communities and most urban areas. It will slowly change city streetscapes in ways that Washington has grown accustomed.

Community commercial zones will increasingly populate with places for residents and others to interact and socialize. Neighborhood “common areas” will serve the function of encouraging a collectively shared urban life, offering entertainment and hospitality as a predominant presence.

Dining, drinking, entertainment, performance and other types of similar businesses and public venues will continue to proliferate and concentrate as destinations for community engagement. Opposition to the popularity of restaurant and bar businesses, for example, and related battles waged over restrictions like liquor license moratoriums will eventually subside. Attempts at arbitrarily controlling and constricting an intrinsic market determination of business need will become even more preposterous than it is today.

There will be little sympathy for the legacy of lament by localized community advisory boards and aging neighborhood activists that have fought the increased streetscape prevalence of such venues. Whether or not a lively and vibrant cultural environment alongside essential services and a steadily declining volume of retail businesses will meet with their approval is largely irrelevant. They might better howl at the moon.

The deal between Amazon and the postal service is merely a symbol of what is already taking shape in urban neighborhoods. A modern society adapts to consumer preference and a changing business environment while promoting new opportunities for a viable commercial landscape best suited to meet evolving needs.

Amazon’s deal will help rescue USPS and allow it to both underwrite and maintain a laudable national commitment to universal mail service. It is also tangible proof that in-line retail businesses will adapt to new marketplace realities alongside online enterprise.

Both are good things.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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