Updated January 12, 2019.
After a decade of decline, it looks like this category of franchises is finally making a comeback, which means entrepreneurs looking for an opportunity in the $2 billion pack-and-ship business center industry have a solid set of options to examine among the top 10 postal, mailbox, and business center franchises.
All but one of the franchises on this list was started back in the 1980s, which was when deregulation of the transportation industry fueled the growth of delivery companies such as UPS, FedEx, DHL, and others.
This is an industry that struggled to maintain its footing during the Great Recession while also dealing with more and more of life and business becoming increasingly digitized. While many of the chains on the list have shrunk in terms of number of locations, the rate of decline overall has either slowed or evened out.
What’s really interesting is that on this same list last year, only two out of the 10 companies were ranked on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. This year, however, six out of the 10 companies are now part of the Franchise 500.
A strong economic recovery continues, which is helping spur a rebound of small businesses that rely heavily on the services of these franchises. Although a few of these companies focus solely on shipping and mailing services, most offer a wide array of business support services.
Here are our picks for the 10 best postal, mailbox, and business center franchises of 2019:
1. The UPS Store
The UPS Store offers a range of services, but its core offering is packing and shipping items, whether domestically or internationally. Other services and products include mailbox rentals for businesses and individuals, printing and copying, faxing, notary, computer access, passport and ID photos, shredding, office and mailing supplies, and design services. Small businesses can take advantage of a much broader array of services from corporate partners, including accounting and bookkeeping, business management, communications, direct mail, financial services, human resources, IT support, and more.
This company currently ranks #4 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1980 as Mail Boxes Etc. and franchising since then, UPS bought the company in 2001 and started rebranding as The UPS Store in 2003. The number of locations has grown slowly over the past nine years from 4,785 in 2009 to the current total of 5,071, none of which are company-owned and 351 of which are located outside the U.S.
2. PostNet Neighborhood Business Centers
PostNet Neighborhood Business Centers offer mailbox rentals and shipping services via UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL, but it places much more emphasis on its other business services, and especially its graphic design and printing services. It offers graphic design consulting for brochures, flyers, posters, signs, banners, invitations, and other items; custom logo design; and business card design. It also has the capability to print all of those items, as well as custom canvas printing.
It also offers direct mail services, rack cards, punch cards, blueprints, carbonless forms, custom calendars, graduation announcements, restaurant menus, postcards, photo cards, and secure check printing. Also among its business services are passport photos, notary public services, secure shredding, and vehicle wraps.
This company currently ranks #221 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1985 and franchising since 1993, the number of locations has declined during the past 10 years from 768 in 2008 to the current total of 661, none of which are company-owned and 447 of which are located outside the U.S.
3. Pak Mail
Pak Mail emphasizes its custom packing and crating services for shipping unique or awkwardly-sized items anywhere in the world. Additional services include mailbox rentals, mail forwarding, package receiving, electronic mail notification, copying/printing/faxing services (full-service or self-service), packing and moving services, notary services, office supplies, and document shredding. Pak Mail is among the six similar franchise concepts owned by Annex Brands.
This company currently ranks #176 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1983 and franchising since 1984, the number of locations has declined during the past 10 years from 474 in 2008 to the current total of 383, only one of which is company-owned and 176 of which are located outside the U.S.
PostalAnnex+ provides complete shipping and business-services solutions for consumers and businesses alike. Small package and document shipping is done through UPS, FedEx, and USPS, and the company will compare all three to get the lowest rate. Freight shipping is arranged as needed by air, land, or sea. Also available are a range of business services such as mailbox rentals, notary services, high-speed copying in black-and-white or color, office supplies, website/eCommerce services, faxing, printing, stationery, rubber stamps, key duplication, greeting cards, and more. PostalAnnex+ is one of six similar franchise concepts owned by Annex Brands.
This company currently ranks #176 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1985 and franchising since 1986, the number of locations has been on the rise over the past nine years from 260 in 2010 to the current total of 281, none of which are company-owned and all of which are franchised in the U.S.
5. Navis Pack and Ship
Navis Pack and Ship is another pack-and-ship franchise that is part of the Annex Brands collection of similar concepts. Unlike most of the companies on this list, Navis does not offer a huge array of business-type services. It is wholly focused on handling a customer’s packing and shipping needs, especially for fragile, large, awkward, and valuable items. Whether it’s equipment, artwork, furniture, antiques, machinery, electronics, medical equipment, or nearly anything else, Navis will custom-pack it with care and ship it anywhere in the world.
Founded in 2000 and franchising since then, the number of locations has risen only slightly in recent years from 50 in 2012 to the current total of 53, none of which are company-owned and five of which are located outside the U.S.
6. AIM Mail Centers
AIM Mail Centers offer a range of services organized into three categories: Pack and Ship (shipping service that compares pricing between UPS, FedEx, and USPS; shipping materials; freight services; and postal services); Copy, Print, and Fax (B&W copies, color copies, printing services, faxing, and document uploads); and Office Services (mailbox rentals, notary, passport photos, keys, laminating, shredding, rubber stamps, and promo products).
This company currently ranks #426 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Part of the Annex Brands family, AIM Mail Centers was founded in 1985 and has been franchising since 1989. The number of locations has declined over the past 10 years from 101 in 2008 to the current total of 48 (same as last year), none of which are company-owned and all of which are franchised in the U.S.
7. Postal Connections
Postal Connections positions itself as a back-office solution for small business people and households, with an emphasis on excellent customer service. Customers can use Postal Connections as their personal mailroom, photocopy department, gift shop, packer and shipper, outpost for passport photos, and communication center that does everything from notarizing documents to receiving personal and business faxes.
One of the unique services of this chain is that it buys movies on DVD, music on CDs, video games, and even textbooks from customers. Another unique offering is its iSold It eBay service that takes customer items on consignment and sells them online.
Founded in 1985 and franchising since 1995, the number of locations has declined from a high of 72 in 2008 to the current total of 43, none of which are company-owned and all of which are franchised in the U.S.
8. Safe Ship
Safe Ship locations function much like a local post office, offering all the same kinds of services. It also offers shipping services to anywhere in the world using a wide variety of carriers, and can construct custom-sized boxes with its BoxMakerPRO box fabrication machine. Customers can also take advantage of an array of small business services, including faxing, printing, and copying in color or black-and-white, free WiFi, notarizing, and more.
Although founded in 1988, franchising didn’t start until 2008 when there were just 9 locations. The number of locations kept growing each year up through 2017 when it reached 40 locations, but that number declined by three units to 37 in 2018, of which five are company-owned and all are located in the U.S.
9. Handle with Care Packaging Store
Handle with Care Packaging Store is solely focused on packing and shipping items of all kinds for its customers to anywhere in the world. The company will handle antiques, art, auction items, computers, electronics, equipment, estate items, freight shipping, furniture, medical equipment, office equipment, machinery, and more. Among its shipping services are crating, custom packaging, freight insurance, international shipping, moving supplies, ocean shipping, packaging supplies, packing, pickup and delivery, senior downsizing, custom foam, fulfillment services, long-term storage, on-site packing, warehousing, trade show logistics, and white glove delivery. The company is now part of the Annex Brands family of franchise concepts.
Founded in 1980 in Denver, Colorado and franchising since 1984, the number of locations has been steadily declining over the past 10 years from 61 in 2008 to the current total of 28, none of which are company-owned and all of which are franchised in the U.S.
10. Parcel Plus
Parcel Plus offers shipping and mailing services regardless of the size, weight, or destination of the items that need to be handled. Each location also offers copying, printing, and faxing services, along with an array of business services such as private mailbox rentals, notary public services, key duplication, and passport photos. Its Digital Doorman service includes e-mail or text message notifications regarding mail and package pick-up, along with password-protected Web access to special shipping information and tracking. Customers can also upload documents for printing with the My Order Desk online service.
This company currently ranks #427 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1986 and franchising since 1988, the number of locations has declined during the past 10 years from 67 in 2008 to the current total of 22, none of which are company-owned and all of which are franchised in the U.S.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.