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USPS Closes Postmark America Store

By Todd Ronnei, The Virtual Stamp Club

Postmark America, the United States Postal Service's only retail store, has closed.

The store operated in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. The Mall of America, affectionately known as the "Megamall" by local residents, is the largest enclosed mall in the country, and second largest in the world. The Mall opened for business in 1992.

Postmark America opened in 1996. The store sold stamps and other postal merchandise, including clothes, books, framed art, and other postal-themed trinkets. Postmark America also sold decades-old Art Craft first day covers for around $5. Such covers can usually be purchased at stamp bourses for under a dollar. In addition to its retail operations, the store also housed a contract post office, which offered traditional postal services.

In 2003, the Postal Service conducted an audit of the store's operation and profitability. The audit found that Postmark America was a huge money loser, generating losses of $8.3 million dollars since 1997. The retail portion of the store, which accounted for 66 percent of its space, was generating only 20 percent of the store's income, and never operated in the black. The bulk of the Postmark America's income was generated by the contract postal unit.

Postmark America management made errors right from the start. Merchandise ordered for the store since 1997 was well beyond what could be sold, resulting in 6,000 pallets of merchandise that had to be stored off-site at a cost of over $1 million. The outdated merchandise could not be sold even at reduced prices, and was finally liquidated from June 2002 to March 2003.

Postmark America also suffered from lack of support within the Postal Service. The store was established as a model unit and a test bed for evaluating new retail solutions for specialized, high traffic environments. The store was to serve as a lab to test new merchandise, much of which would ultimately be sold at traditional post offices. But in recent years the Postal Service has backed off from selling retail merchandise not directly related to the business of moving the mail, effectively making Postmark America an orphan operation.

The Postal Service notified Mall of America management in 2003 that it would not renew its lease, which was due to expire in May 2004. A visit to the Mall on May 15, 2004 found the store shuttered and it's telephone number disconnected. However, Mall management had yet to remove the store from Mall directories and its website.

I enjoyed shopping at Postmark America whenever I visited the Mall of America. One visit in December 1996 was exciting for me, as I found Year of the Ox stamps, Scott 3120, on sale before the January 5, 1997 first day of issue. I purchased the stamps and immediately used several them to mail covers to myself. The covers received a December 29, 1996 postmark, which Linn's U.S. Stamp Yearbook 1997 acknowledges as the earliest documented use for the stamp.

2004 Todd Ronnei

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